PITTSBURGH -- After Oakland's Richard Seymour sucker-punched Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers delivered their message. Now it's up to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to deliver his -- and that hard-ass better deliver one of the sternest messages of his life.
After the 6-foot-6, 310-pound Seymour sucker-punched Roethlisberger late in the first half Sunday, the Steelers handled it their way. They pulverized Oakland 35-3, sacking the Raiders six times, forcing three turnovers and pouring it on in the final minutes. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin took several shots downfield in the fourth quarter and had Roethlisberger throw a 16-yard touchdown pass with less than 75 seconds left for the final margin -- and the final message:
Don't mess with our quarterback.
"Tomlin, he went for the throat," Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said. "It's all good. It'll come around."
Excuse me? There's nothing to "come around." Richard Seymour played dirty. The officials ejected him, and the Steelers retaliated on the remaining Raiders by winning huge. The only thing left is the verdict from the NFL's notoriously tough commissioner, Goodell, who has fined Steelers linebacker James Harrison three times this season for more than $100,000.
"There needs to be some reciprocity," Steelers offensive tackle Jonathan Scott said. "If James Harrison is going to be fined for his hits, let's see what happens to [Seymour]."
Unlike the Steelers, who were livid with Seymour -- Steelers guard Chris Kemoeatu immediately hit Seymour in the face, drawing a 15-yard penalty and probably a fine from Goodell and later telling me, "It seemed like the right thing to do" -- Goodell won't be running hot. He needs to be cold and calculating when he decides what to do with Seymour, and he won't be simply punishing Seymour for that open-handed strike that sent Roethlisberger to the ground. Goodell needs to send an unmistakable message to Seymour, and to the rest of the league, that such behavior will not be tolerated.
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I'm thinking a hefty fine, or a suspension, or both. Ideally, both. The problem here is the victim. Roethlisberger? To many, he's no victim. To many, he deserves whatever he gets on the field. Roethlisberger has avoided criminal punishment off the field after being accused twice of sexual assault, but in the court of public opinion he was guilty. To some people, Seymour will not be seen as a dirty player. He will be seen as an avenging angel.
To me, he's dirty. Period. Seymour wasn't avenging women everywhere when he smashed Roethlisberger in the face. He was lashing out after a humbling half of football that had seen the Steelers race to a 21-3 lead by dominating the line of scrimmage. Before sucker-punching Roethlisberger late in the second quarter, Seymour had been involved twice in post-whistle skirmishes with Kemoeatu.
"He was frustrated," Kemoeatu said. "On the play [that led to Seymour's ejection], me and him were going at it. He bull-rushed me and I threw him down. He tried to twist my ankle, and I said something to him. He got up and started to say something back, and that's when Ben was walking past him. He took it out on Ben. Ben didn't say anything to him. He just snapped."
This was a physical game, and don't let the awful officiating confuse the issue. The box score shows that Pittsburgh was penalized 14 times for a franchise-record 163 yards, compared to seven penalties for 55 yards against the Raiders, but that's misleading. The referees were terrible. I'm not much for conspiracy theories, but the officiating was so one-sided -- some of the calls against Pittsburgh so mystifying -- that I researched the background of referee Tony Corrente. Just out of curiosity.
|The Raiders were beaten on both sides of the ball. The Steelers blitz packages had QBs Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski were confused and rattled. Oakland managed only 61 yards on the ground and 168 yards total.|
|The defense was dominant, holding the Raiders to just 168 total yards. The offense rang up 431 yards but 14 penalties for 163 yards keep the Steelers from getting an A.|
|By Brian Carson|
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Corrente is a lifelong resident of California. Home of the Raiders. If you were curious.
Me, I'm curious about Goodell's reaction to Seymour -- and the officiating. I'm also curious about the Raiders' three-game winning streak coming into Sunday, and about Jason Campbell's 104.3 quarterback rating during that streak, and about running back Darren McFadden's ability to average 5.4 yards per carry and an NFL-best 108.6 yards through nine games.
How did any of that happen? Because I didn't see it Sunday. Pittsburgh's defense was playing without both starting ends, and with several regulars having missed most of the week's preparation with injury, and still the Steelers dominated Oakland. The Raiders gained just 182 yards in total offense. McFadden had 10 carries for 14 yards. Campbell's passer rating read like a marathon of misery -- 26.2 -- and that's with a pick-six interception erased by penalty.
See, Seymour and the Oakland defense weren't the only Raiders who were beaten up Sunday. The Oakland offense was abused, and on special teams the Raiders allowed a 67-yard punt return by Antonio Brown for a touchdown. Like the pick-six from Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, though, Brown's touchdown return was nullified by penalty.
In other words, this game could have been 49-3.
Which is what Oakland's Richard Seymour, team captain that he is, deserved.
Now it's your turn, Roger Goodell.