After watching Antonio Brown, DeAngelo Williams and the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers run through his defense for 597 yards and 38 points, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio is concerned about that unit.
After showing signs of improvement in recent weeks and being stout against the run most of the season, the Raiders had no answers against the Steelers when they set a franchise worst for yards allowed in a game.
Del Rio said basic issues like shedding blocks, playing with proper leverage and tackling were to blame for the 38-35 loss to Pittsburgh that left Oakland (4-4) on the outside of playoff positioning at the midpoint of the season.
“We really went backward yesterday in terms of our execution in those key areas,” Del Rio said Monday. “It’s something that we believe we can do well, something we believe in the guys that we have, something in coaches that we believe in. We just did not execute it yesterday very well.”
The biggest culprit was a secondary that could not keep up with Brown and missed several tackles. Brown caught 17 passes for 284 yards and ran for 22 more on two runs. Williams ran for 170 yards and caught two passes for 55.
The duo combined for 531 of Pittsburgh’s 597 yards in the most prolific yardage day in NFL history by a pair of teammates.
Despite all that, the Raiders appeared in good shape when Derek Carr threw his fourth touchdown pass of the day, a 38-yarder to Michael Crabtree that tied the game with 1:15 left.
But Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones converted a short third-and-2 pass that Brown turned into a 57-yard gain that set up the winning field goal in the closing seconds.
Del Rio praised his team’s ability to overcome a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter but it wasn’t enough to avoid another late road loss after losing in Chicago last month on a field goal at the end.
“We got down there at the end, had an opportunity, really the way they played it, if we can make a play there on that third down, we get the ball,” he said. “You want to have those opportunities and you want to play well in those situations. … There are a lot of close games in our league and the teams that make the plays in those situations win.”
The Raiders got somewhat encouraging news on the health front with two key players who left Sunday’s game in the second half with injuries. Center Rodney Hudson has a sprained ankle and Del Rio said he will know more about the extent of the injury as the week progresses.
Running back Latavius Murray is going through the concussion protocol and Del Rio said the signs are positive.
Del Rio second-guessed himself on a couple of decisions he made, including the type of coverage called on Brown’s 57-yard catch that set up the game-winning field goal to being overly conservative at the end of the first half.
After the Steelers took a 21-14 lead with 29 seconds left, Del Rio had Carr sit on the ball despite having three timeouts left and a big-legged kicker in Sebastian Janikowski. Del Rio said the fact that the Raiders were starting the second half with the ball and the passing game wasn’t crisp in the first half led to the decision.
“As I sit here today looking back, I say ‘Hey, we’ve got a good offense, we’ve got three timeouts, let’s take a shot at it,’” he said. “In hindsight, if I had that to do over, I would do it over.”
Safety Nate Allen, who has been sidelined by a knee injury since the opener, is on target to return Sunday against Minnesota. TJ Carrie, who moved from cornerback to safety when Allen went down, is also expected back this week after missing the game with a shoulder and hip injury.