Ben Roethlisberger is now 0-4 in Oakland during his 15 NFL seasons, though it appeared he had a chance to snap that streak midway through Sunday's game. He hit JuJu Smith-Schuster for a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the second quarter to give the Steelers a 14-10 lead. It was the eighth time in 2018 that Roethlisberger had led a touchdown drive in the final two minutes of the first half.
But Big Ben remained in the locker room when the Steeler took the field in the third quarter -- he suffered a rib injury on a sack on the penultimate series in the first half. So backup quarterback Josh Dobbs was under center for the next four drives and the Steelers' offense came to a grinding halt. Dobbs was 4 of 9 for 24 yards and an interception, and added 15 rushing yards.
But on Pittsburgh's fifth series of the final half, Roethlisberger returned. Trailing 21-17, he led a six-play, 75 yard drive -- all Big Ben completions -- that culminated in another Smith-Schuster touchdown. But as has been the case for much of the season, the Steelers' defense was helpless to stop the opponent and the Raiders marched down the field for the go-ahead touchdown with 15 seconds left in the game. That promptly led to more Big Ben theatrics:
That got the Steelers in field goal range with a chance to tie the game but Chris Boswell, who has had a forgettable season, slipped.
Game over, though plenty of questions remain. Like, why wasn't Roethlisberger out there earlier in the second half?
"He got looked at at halftime. He got treatment, he came back out," coach Mike Tomlin told reporters after the Steelers' third straight loss, via ESPN.com. "We were waiting to see if he was gonna be able to come back in. He was. He probably could've come in a series or so sooner, but we were in the rhythm and flow of the game. He was ready to go when he got back out there."
It's unclear what "the rhythm and flow of the game" means; as we mentioned above, Dobbs was ineffective in four series that included two first downs, a turnover on downs, an interceptions and two punts. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger's final three drives of the first half went like this: touchdown, missed field goal, touchdown. And when he returned in the fourth quarter: touchdown, missed field goal. When it was over, he was 25 of 29 for 282 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers.
"You're asking how I feel during a football game where I'm getting beat up," said Roethlisberger. "So, I felt OK."
Whatever the reason for keeping Roethlisberger on the sidelines, the Steelers are in a bad way. After winning six straight they've now dropped three in a row and are in danger of not only losing the division to the Ravens, but missing the playoffs altogether; their final three games are at home against the Patriots, in New Orleans, and at home against the Bengals.