VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT
PITTSBURGH -- Kordell Stewart and his teammates could play for NBC's "Saturday Night Live"; so far, the 2002 Pittsburgh Steelers have proven to be Not Ready for Prime-Time Players.
In their second consecutive night-time national telecast, the Steelers looked like anything but Super Bowl contenders in a 30-17 loss to Oakland.
"Two big, prime-time games and we perform the way we did -- it hurts," said Steelers linebacker Joey Porter.
The loss drops the Steelers to 0-2 and has the Cleveland Browns (1-1) alone atop the AFC North standings.
"Right now, we are not a very good football team," said Steelers coach Bill Cowher after Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon shredded the Steelers' defense, completing 43-of-64 passes for 403 yards.
"I didn't think they would come out winging it like that because they've been successful running the ball," Cowher said.
"Still, we had opportunities, but it seemed that every time we would make a play to get back in it, we'd shoot ourselves in the foot."
Record breaking efforts
The Raiders (2-0) broke two franchise records (passes and completions) and challenged another (yards).
Todd Marinovich had the previous pass record of 59 attempts against the Browns in 1992. Gannon's old receptions mark was 35 set last year against the Denver Broncos. Gannon's passing yards were 21 short of Jeff Hostetler's 1993 record of 424.
The Raiders obviously noticed when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw 25 straight passes against the Steelers in last Monday's 30-14 win.
But Raiders coach Bill Callahan said the plan to throw against the Steelers had been in place for some time now.
"The plan going in was to throw," Callahan said. "The players knew it [last] Monday morning prior to the Monday night game.
"They knew it from the last time we had played them that we had to throw the ball, we had to be aggressive," said Callahan, referring to a loss to the Steelers in December 2000 at Three Rivers Stadium. "We had to continually put pressure on their defense. I thought we fulfilled that."
Cowher credited the performances of Brady and Gannon.
"We have faced two very good quarterbacks and they've been very accurate," he said.
In the first half alone, Gannon was 29-of-41 for 257 yards.
But Todd Peterson's 46-yard field goal as time ran out had the Steelers trailing only 17-10.
The game was even tighter in the third quarter.
With Oakland nursing a 20-10 lead, the Raiders were deep in Steelers territory when Porter picked off a Gannon pass at the 1 and returned it 84 yards.
Porter's interception, his second of the game, led to Stewart's second touchdown pass to wide receiver Hines Ward, a 5-yarder that reduced the Raiders' lead to 20-17 as the quarter ended.
Return kills Steelers
The Steelers' joy was short-lived when Terry Kirby ran back the kickoff 96 yards to restore the 10-point lead.
"You can't win when you are on the field for 80, 90 plays and have turnovers," Porter said. "You are always putting yourself in a tough situation [with] the defense not being able to get off the field on third downs."
The Raiders converted 12-of-20 third-down plays.
"We make a play and get back into the game, and then they come back with the kickoff return for the touchdown," Cowher said. "Then we proceed to fumble the ball the next three possessions."