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Steelers Trounce Raiders -- Rivalry Revived

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Steelers Trounce Raiders -- Rivalry Revived

Nov. 21, 2010

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PITTSBURGH(AP) The Steelers returned to the Steel Curtain days of the 1970s. TheRaiders went back to the bad old days of the last seven years.There were punches and penalties, aSteelers defense that wouldn't stop and a Raiders offense that couldn'tget started. One week after getting embarrassed by the Patriots, a yearafter losing to Oakland, James Harrison and the Steelers tossed aroundthe Raiders like it was a playground pickup game while beating them35-3 on Sunday.Raiders defensive end Richard Seymourpunched Ben Roethlisberger in the jaw with an open hand, but theSteelers never flinched. They shrugged off a club-record 163 yards inpenalties, chased a bewildered quarterback Jason Campbell from the gameand punished the Raiders like the Steel Curtain teams of the '70s didso many opponents.The Steelers (7-3), still tied withBaltimore for the AFC North lead, were motivated by last week's 39-26home-field loss to New England and last year's 27-24 defeat to Oaklandthat all but ruined their season."It definitely was an old school,physical type game from back in the day," linebacker James Farriorsaid. "That's the type of game we wanted to make it, a physical game,and improve from our performance of last week."Harrison, the former AP NFL DefensivePlayer of the Year, did much of the damage with five tackles, twosacks, an interception and a forced fumble. He also took one of theSteelers' six personal foul penalties for slamming Campbell to the turfas the quarterback threw a pass."We didn't worry about the calls," Harrison said. "When you're getting a lot of penalties against you, it brings you together."Seymour, long one of the NFL's topdefensive players, displayed Oakland's frustration by strikingRoethlisberger in the face as the quarterback celebrated his TD pass toSanders late in the second quarter."I've never seen a quarterback get punched since I've been in this league," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.Several Raiders were certain Roethlisberger said something to Seymour."I'm not sure why he ran up on me," Seymour said."I heard that Big Ben said something," defensive lineman Tommy Kelly said. "I guess Big Rich didn't like it."What the Raiders (5-5) most dislikedwas getting shoved around like the Raiders teams that lost at least 11games each season from 2003-09. Oakland fell out of a tie for the AFCWest lead as Kansas City (6-4) beat Arizona 31-13.Oakland averaged 458 yards and 38.6points during its three-game winning streak, but had only 52 yards - 11rushing - as the Steelers opened a 21-3 halftime lead."We played against a really toughdefense today that got after us," said Campbell, who was 7 of 19 for 70yards and an interception. "Once we got behind the 8-ball and they gotall the momentum, they just kept bringing it and bringing it."Campbell never had a chance againsta Steelers defense that forced three turnovers, two that becametouchdowns, had six sacks and limited Darren McFadden to 14 yards on 10carries, 94 below his average. The Steelers have allowed only one100-yard rusher in 44 games.The Raiders were so ineffective, theSteelers had more penalty yards than they had offensive yards untildeep in the third quarter. The Steelers outgained them 431-182 asRoethlisberger threw touchdown passes of 52 yards to Mike Wallace, 22yards to Emmanuel Sanders and 16 yards to Isaac Redman and scrambled 16yards for a touchdown."I don't know how a team can overcome that many penalties, but we did it," Sanders said.Roethlisberger was 18 of 29 for 275yards and had 55 yards rushing. Wallace had his fifth 100-yardreceiving game with 116 yards, and Rashard Mendenhall's 15-yard TD runput Pittsburgh ahead to stay 7-3 in the second quarter.Bruce Gradkowski, who threw threetouchdown passes during the final 8 12 minutes of Oakland's stunningwin in Pittsburgh last season, replaced Campbell but also couldn't getanything going.While the penalties didn't affectPittsburgh's domination, the many calls inflamed their fans. TheHarrison penalty so upset the crowd of 64,987 that it booed for theensuing three plays, and fans began a derisive cheer aimed at refereeTony Corrente."Their defensive guys were hittingour offensive guys and there were no penalties," Harrison said. "Ibelieve if it happened the other way, there would have been a lot morepenalties called and maybe they would have kicked five or six of us outof game."Notes: Oakland had 55 yards inpenalties. ... Oakland's other defensive end, Trevor Scott, tore theACL in his left knee, usually a season-ending injury. ... Steelers CMaurkice Pouncey was pulled in the second half with a thigh injury. ...WR Hines Ward made three catches for 28 yards a week after a concussionsidelined him for the final three quarters against New England, endinghis streak of 186 consecutive games with a reception. ... Oakland stillhasn't won in Pittsburgh in successive seasons. ... Pittsburgh didn'tallow a point in the second half after giving up 29 to New England. ...Shaun Suisham, the Steelers' new kicker, didn't attempt a field goal.

Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots

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AP

Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders cornerback David Amerson didn’t practice all week, but ran just well enough to be considered “doubtful” for Sunday’s game against New England.

Translation: Outlook for Sunday is not good, but Jack Del Rio’s fingers remained crossed real, real tight. The Raiders hope there’s a way he can be active against Tom Brady’s buzz saw attack, because their cover men are beat up.

Amerson has missed two straight with a foot injury, and has dealt with injury all year. Gareon Conley’s season officially ended Monday, when he was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Antonio Hamilton and Demetrius McCray were already there.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t reached out for reinforcements. That leaves TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald and Sean Smith to play cornerback. Carrie’s been the rock, a sure tackler who hasn’t made spectacular plays but doesn’t give them up. McDonald has been forced into action, with holes let in his game.

Smith should be the No. 1 guy in this group, the steadying presence on the outside. That hasn’t been the case this year, where he lost a starting job in training camp and sub-package snaps during the season, only to have injuries to Conley and Amerson bring him in the fray.

He’s also been dealing with felony assault and battery charges in Los Angeles stemming from a July 4 incident in Pasadena.

Smith has been a lightning rod for fan criticism, a byproduct of his $9.5 million salary this year and explosive plays allowed early in the year.

If there’s an anvil weighing on his mind, teammates insist you’d never know.

“We’re human at the end of the day,” Amerson said. “You feel it, but you have to find a way to remain even keel and professional and do your job well.”

Smith will be counted on heavily Sunday against New England, especially if Amerson can’t play as expected. He has proven vulnerable to speed without help and proper disruption at the line of scrimmage, though that hasn’t been an issue lately because the Utah alum has recovered well after a rough start.

He got pulled after struggling against Vernon Davis in Washington. He didn’t play against the Chargers after giving up two huge plays to Baltimore the week before.

Amerson originally sprained his foot in Week 7 against Kansas City – he hasn’t played since – and Smith was called upon to respond. He wasn’t targeted in that game, and has been strong in coverage ever since.

Smith has allowed three catches for 12 yards in four targets over the last two games. The ninth-year veteran insists he wasn’t doing anything markedly different, and had zero interest in patting himself on the back for recent jobs well done.

“I’m not,” Smith said. “I’m out there doing my job, man, the best way I can.”

Smith says the off-field distractions during a roller-coaster season, one of his career’s most trying yet, haven’t impacted him much

“Nope. Not at all,” Smith said. “As long as I wake up a Raider, I’m all right. I’ll deal with whatever happens. I’ll always be there for my guys, and I’ll do whatever it takes to help our team win.”

Raiders defensive backs laud Smith’s locker room presence, saying he’s an excellent teammate. Cornerbacks in general must have a short memory when things go bad, to refocus and prevent that from happening again. Smith apparently has that in spades.

“I know how things go, especially when you have a target on your back,” Amerson said. “Sometimes you get hit with the perfect pass and you give up some plays. You can’t do anything about that but take advantage of the next opportunity. Sean’s a good player, and he definitely has that mindset.”

Smith will lend experience to this big game, something the Raiders need after suffering so many injuries.

"It sucks that so many of us have gone down,” Smith said. "You want to have all your guys out there, but that’s the NFL. Injuries happen. As long as everybody comes to work and acts like a pro, we’ll be all right. We all have a job to do. We all would like to start, but you have to be ready when your number’s called.”

Raiders standing by strategy for Mexico City altitude

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AP

Raiders standing by strategy for Mexico City altitude

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders spent all week at sea level preparing to play 1-¼ miles up. They left Oakland around noon on Saturday confident that altitude won’t be an issue in Sunday’s game against New England.

Estadio Azteca sits at 7,200 feet, a comparable elevation to where the Patriots have been practicing in Colorado Springs. That has created a debate of sorts about which philosophy works best. There’s science to support staying in altitude with New England.

There’s plenty more to back head coach Jack Del Rio’s desire to get in and out of altitude as fast as possible. We won’t break down the arguments here. There are plenty of stories written about that.

We’ll simply say the Raiders believe in their approach, and have experience to support it. The Raiders best Houston in Mexico City last year in a dramatic affair that required two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

“I thought we handled our business well last year and we’ve got a similar approach this year,” Del Rio said. “We expect to go down there and play in a great atmosphere. The fans are very engaged. It’s a great atmosphere to be a part of. Just go down there and play good football.”

The Raiders have worked toward this game the past three weeks. They’ve worked on exercise bikes and treadmills using elevation machine, which matches oxygen outputs at specific elevation. Players have done that and have then been able to recover at sea level. They’ve worn popularized oxygen deprivation masks during other activities, though they’ve practiced as usual.

The Raiders know what to expect in terms of logistics, altitude and air pollution. The Raiders have prepared well for this experience, but that doesn’t mean altitude doesn’t impact finely tuned athletes.

“When you get there, you’re going to feel it,” edge rusher Khalil Mack said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “It’s different than anything you’ve ever felt. It’s different than Denver. It was a way tougher challenge. You felt it right away. It hits you getting off the plane.”

Both teams must play in adverse conditions.

“We just have to go play,” Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. “You guys aren’t going to say the altitude had an effect on the outcome. You can’t use it as an excuse. You can’t think about that. You have to train and prepare the way they’ve been having us prepare and go out there and execute.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick hasn’t talked much about his strategy of staying at elevation after playing in Denver last week. Extended time away from home can be a bonding time, as the Raiders experienced a fortnight past in Sarasota, FL. He didn’t consider the time spent at Air Force Academy to be a significant advantage.

“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Belichick said. “The way the schedule worked out, this worked out for us. We’re here and we’re just doing the best we can to get ready for the game.”

The Raiders anticipate Estadio Azteca to feel like home away from home. Raider Nation turned out en masse last year in Houston, giving the neutral site a silver and black edge. Fans took it to the extreme at times, pointing a green laser pointer in Texans quarterback Brock Osweiller’s eyes.

The NFL will certainly be looking to quell those disruptions, especially with a marquee Patriots team in town. New England fans will be audible this time, but another pro-Raiders atmosphere is expected. That’s why Derek Carr isn’t worried about distractions from the crowd.

“No, no, no, no, no. I think that going down there is a home field advantage,” Carr said. “I’m not worried about the laser pointers. I think that’s for the other guys.”