On paper, the Oakland Raiders can now only play spoiler.
Following Sunday's 40-33 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Silver and Black are now eight games under .500, and with a 2-10 record, they have officially been eliminated from postseason play.
With four games left on the regular season schedule, you could understand if Head Coach Jon Gruden and his staff let their thoughts wander to February and the NFL Scouting Combine, or April and the bevy of draft picks they'll have at their disposal when the 2019 Draft kicks off in Nashville, but that isn't the case as the Raiders set their sights on their Week 14 showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"No, we don't look ahead right now," said Gruden Monday afternoon. "We are looking at the Pittsburgh Steelers, that's all we are doing. I'm really proud of our team. We fought back yesterday and made it 33-30 in the fourth quarter. We got them third-and-five, we get a stop and we jump offsides. We gave Kansas City too many mulligans. We fumbled the ball to them three times. We had a fourth-and-one called back, and we gave them first downs by jumping offsides. We are not looking ahead to nothing except the Pittsburgh Steelers. I can assure you that, at least on our side of the building."
As of now, the Silver and Black have three first-round selections in April's draft, and while optimism, and hope abound as far as those trio of picks is concerned, the focus now – and for the next month – will be on winning games in 2018.
The Silver and Black have lost back-to-back games following their Week 11 road win over the Arizona Cardinals, but even though the wins haven't been there, the group has been playing an improved brand of football.
Defensively, Paul Guenther's group has taken strides, and last weekend in particular, Derek Carr and the Raiders offense found a bit of a rhythm, en route to putting up 30-plus points for the second week in a row.
So, what's the reason for the improved quality of play?
"I think the offensive line has gotten healthy," Gruden explained. "I think that helps. I think we're healthier up front. Derek has played good football. I think that's a great combination. When you're healthy upfront and you've got some continuity with your linemen, you're able to pass-protect and block better. It has an effect on every phase of your offense. Derek has been hot. He's been playing well. He's really picking up the system well. He made some great audibles yesterday. He made some great throws. I'm excited about that."
The Raiders will try to keep that positive momentum rolling this Sunday as they welcome Ben Roethlisberger and a Pittsburgh Steelers squad that is in dire need of a win after dropping back-to-back games for the first time this year.
Kickoff at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is scheduled for 1:25 PM.
Photos of the game action during the Raiders' Week 13 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs at the Coliseum.