Photos of the Raiders taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers throughout the years.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for more than 40,000 yards, tossed 256 touchdown passes, played in three Super Bowls, winning two, and is the Steelers all-time leading passer. However, since entering the NFL in 2004 as a first round draft pick, Big Ben has beaten the Oakland Raiders exactly once in his illustrious career. The Raiders are 4-1 against Roethlisberger.
The flip side to that is only one of those Raiders victories happened at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, the site of this Sunday's matchup. And Big Ben's win over the Raiders came at Heinz Field, 35-3 in 2010.
Injured in Week 3 at St. Louis, Roethlisberger returned to action last week in a 16-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Although Mike Vick and Landry Jones performed admirably in his absence, Big Ben clearly is the heartbeat of the Black and Gold's offense.
The Raiders are well aware of Roethlisberger's size, strength, pocket-presence, command of the offense and his rapport with his receivers.
"He's big, strong. He has really good control and understands his offense really well. They've always been able to surround him with some really good receivers," Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., said. "He has the confidence just to throw it up there. He has the guys to go up and get it. They have the speed to break away, they have the hands to catch it and they work really well together."
Roethlisberger's innate ability to break tackles in the backfield, avoid sacks, and make big plays down the field is of particular concern.
"He's been very successful with throwing the ball deep, so it's important for us to find ways to be successful on deep balls," Coach Norton said. "Again, it's a lot of film study, a lot of preparation and we're using this week to our advantage to have ourselves in position to play those deep balls."
Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio has faced off against Ben Roethlisberger-led Steelers teams numerous times as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"He is a guy that's so big and strong that you'll see guys, he'll shrug them off. You think you have him down, he'll wiggle his way out of there, stay alive and everyone on the field is a threat to get the ball, everybody. He'll dump it to a back late as he's on his way down," Coach Del Rio said. "He'll find a way to throw it 70 yards down the field to one of his receivers. I mean everybody, literally, remains in play for a long time with him. He extends the play. A great competitor and [I've] gone against him a number of times and I have a lot of respect for him."
As the Raiders have respect for Roethlisberger, the 11-year veteran has taken notice of what the Raiders bring to bear this season.
"It's an awesome defense. This is a huge test for us – it's not going to be easy. They're a very physical football team, very physical in the secondary," Roethlisberger said. "Their front seven like to get after the quarterback. This is a definite test for us and for our guys because it's a very good defense."
The Raiders enter the game with a 4-3 record. If the season ended today, the Raiders would have secured a Wild Card spot and would be the 5th seed in the AFC. The Steelers are 4-4 and right in the thick of that playoff chase as well.
"We've got a heck of a match-up, a good football team, a playoff-like atmosphere," Coach Del Rio said. "Two teams that want it real bad. It should be a great environment. I'm looking forward to being a part of it."
If history is any indication, throw out the record books, throw out the win-loss records. This one has the makings of a good old-fashioned Raiders/Steelers tilt of old, and dealing with the Steelers quarterback is going to go a long way in determining the outcome.