Raiders, Steelers Set to Revive 'That '70s Show'

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Raiders, Steelers Set to Revive 'That '70s Show'

Nov. 18, 2010RAIDERS PAGE RAIDERS VIDEOSTEELERS PAGE GAME PREVIEW

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Suddenly, it's looking like the 1970s again for what once was the NFL's nastiest and most compelling rivalry, one so inflamed it once spilled over from the football field to a federal courtroom.

Welcome back, Raiders vs. Steelers. The NFL and its millions of fans have missed you.

Two storied franchises that have disliked each other since they first met 40 years ago face each other Sunday in what might be the most meaningful game between them since 1984. That season, the last remnants of Pittsburgh's Super Bowl teams of the 1970s upset the Raiders during the final weekend of the regular season to make the playoffs, and the Steelers went on to reach the AFC championship game.

It's a rivalry that was kindled by the most miraculous game-winning play in NFL history, the Immaculate Reception in 1972. With Hall of Famers such as Al Davis, Chuck Noll and John Madden, Mean Joe Greene and Franco Harris, Gene Upshaw and Art Shell all playing key roles, the teams faced each other in the playoffs every season from 1972-76.

The games were so fearsomely physical, there were frequent allegations of crossing-the-line play and, even, a lawsuit after Noll accused the Raiders' George Atkinson of being part of the league's "criminal element."

For much of the '70s, it was the NFL's rivalry beyond all others. Now there are hints it could be percolating again.

The Raiders scored three touchdowns in the final 8 12 minutes to beat the Steelers 27-23 in Pittsburgh last season, a significant upset that eventually put the reigning Super Bowl winners out of the playoffs. Of the Steelers' five consecutive late-season losses, this one might have hurt the most.

"We went home and kept wondering, What if? What if?'" wide receiver Hines Ward said.

The Raiders (5-4), with a dozen-plus first-round draft picks, now look to be one of the league's on-the-rise teams after winning three in a row and four of five. The Steelers (6-3), trying for a third Super Bowl in six seasons, looked like an elite team until Tom Brady shredded their defense for 350 yards passing in New England's 39-26 rout last weekend.

Oakland, tied for the AFC West lead with Kansas City, knows it can legitimize its status as a playoff contender if it can overcome the cross-country trip and beat the Steelers on their home field for a second successive season. The Steelers, tied for the AFC North lead with Baltimore, want to show that last week was an anomaly.

"I hope everybody's (ticked) off," Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. "The way we played last week was unacceptable. It's something we can't have if we want to be a championship team. I haven't gotten my butt whipped like that in a long time."

That loss cost longtime kicker Jeff Reed his job. He was cut after missing a 26-yard field goal attempt, with former Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham replacing him.

Raiders coach Tom Cable would love to extend the Steelers' miseries for another week.

"It's very dear to me to get this place back to respectability and back to being a team that everybody talks about like the Steelers, the Patriots, like Baltimore, like the teams that have been good here for a while," Cable said. "There was a time when you mentioned those teams, and you would mention Oakland that way."

Ward is too young to remember the height of Raiders-Steelers rivalry, but he's heard enough to know what it meant.

"Our organization, theirs, (are) probably the marquee organizations throughout history, especially on the AFC side," said Ward, who expects to play despite getting a concussion against New England. "Some of the great plays in history have come in this game. It's always great to play the Oakland Raiders, it's a lot of rich tradition."

Bruce Gradkowski's 11-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy with 9 seconds remaining last season might not go down among those great plays, but it was enough to beat Pittsburgh. Gradkowski now backs up Jason Campbell, the former Redskins quarterback who has thrown for 743 yards, five touchdowns and one interception during Oakland's three-game winning streak.

Campbell might need to consistently pick on Pittsburgh's suspect cornerbacks to sustain any offense, especially if Darren McFadden - whose 108.1 yards rushing average leads the NFL - can't get going. Pittsburgh's defense has allowed only one 100-yard rusher in 43 games and is giving up a league-low 63.2 yards per game.

"It's a great buzz for us right now," McFadden said. "We've won three games in a row so it has been great for confidence. Guys approach the game with a 'we are supposed to win' attitude."

Oakland's dominant defensive front four of Lamarr Houston, Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly and Trevor Scott hopes to disrupt quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as successfully as New England did when it surged through an injury-thinned offensive line to sack him five times. Roethlisberger, who leads the NFL in passing yardage since returning from his four-game suspension, threw for many of his 387 yards after the Patriots opened a 23-3 lead.

"Teams start to separate themselves in November and December," Seymour said. "We want to be one of those elite teams."

Elite isn't a word that's been heard around the Raiders for a long time. They might hear it again if, for the first time in franchise history, they can win in Pittsburgh in successive seasons.

"Last year is last year," linebacker Sam Williams said. "This is a new team, different players everywhere on the field. This is a new team that's focused and not even close to the team we had last year."

Carr plans to spread new wealth after Raiders contract extension

Carr plans to spread new wealth after Raiders contract extension

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr isn’t one for extravagance. The low-key Raiders quarterback already has some nice cars, a house and some luxury items to his name, but signing a $125 million contract extension Friday morning won't prompt a spending spree.

Cornerback Sean Smith suggested he get a Bugatti. That’s a $1 million car.

“Yeah,” Carr said with a smirk. “That’s not going to happen.”

That isn’t the 26-year old’s style. Carr had a his own plan after signing on the dotted line.

“I’ve been eating clean,” Carr said. “I’ll probably get Chick-fil-A.”

That makes sense. This is a guy who celebrated his first NFL victory with a trip through a Carl’s Jr. drive-in.

There will be other purchases. His wife Heather will get something nice in the near future. His family, especially Heather and sons Dallas and Deker, will be taken care of for life.

After all that, Carr plans to spread the wealth.

“The exciting thing for me moneywise, honestly, is this money is going to help a lot of people,” Carr said. “I’m very thankful to have it, that it’s in our hands because it’s going to help people. Not only in this country, but in a lot of countries around the world. That’s what’s exciting to me.”

Carr and former Raiders running back Latavius Murray took a missionary trip to Haiti, an impoverished nation had a profound impact on the star quarterback.

“I’ve been down to Haiti and I’ve seen some of those struggles that they have and the kids there, and my heart just… I cry sometimes thinking about it,” Carr said. “So, just knowing that we can go down there and make a difference and help, those are the kind of things that the money makes me kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Because now we can really do some things to help a lot of people.”

He plans to support those in that area, in addition to global and domestic charities he has been involved with over the years. Don’t expect a press release accompanying every donation. Carr would rather keep those decisions private.

“I’m going to do my best to make sure no one knows what we do with it,” Carr said. “I’ll just say this, I can assure you that it’s going to help a lot of people. I’m not stingy. My business manager will probably be on me saying, ‘Hey man, that’s enough.’ I won’t get into when, how or why. It’s not all about that for me. It’s about making a difference. That’s what’s exciting for me is that we’ll be able to do that.”

Carr didn't want to 'take every single dime,' handcuff Raiders long-term

Carr didn't want to 'take every single dime,' handcuff Raiders long-term

ALAMEDA – Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed a five-year contract extension Friday morning that will pay him $25 million in 2017 and $125 million over the life of the deal.

That’s a lot of scratch. Could’ve been more.

Carr received life-changing money. He didn’t want to handcuff the Raiders front office in the process.

“I just wanted to be a Raider,” Carr said Friday in a press conference. “It’s more than just a team to me. It’s family. The way it went down, it was easy. Both sides wanted it to get done, and it was about family members figuring out to get along. We figured out a way to do it so that we have the opportunity to sign other guys who are important to this organization. That was really important to me, not to just take every single dime that we could”

That list is long but it starts with homegrown talents Gabe Jackson and Khalil Mack. Jackson is up next, and could get locked up before the regular season starts. The Raiders have some time on Mack – his contract doesn’t expire until after 2018 – and Amari Cooper should be a keeper on down the road.

“The bottom line is we’re able to continue to move forward with it, keep all the players that we need to keep in the correct timing,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “This affords us to do that. We’re going to start on that ASAP.”

Carr got the deal he wanted. The 26-year old found market value and upped the ante for NFL quarterbacks a smidge while deferring some cash payouts – his big-time bonuses are broken up over two years -- to create windows of financial flexibility to sign other players. Carr’s percentage of the salary cap should decrease over time and won’t become an insurmountable burden to his employers. His deal won’t prevent the Raiders from keeping Jackson, Mack, Amari Cooper in time, or other vital veterans in house.

With Carr locked up, the McKenzie can work deals and the timing of them around his centerpiece.

Carr understands the NFL business and his role in the market, but he wants to maintain a competitive window as best he can and understands other guys will draw huge paychecks in the near future.

He’s scheduled to draw the NFL’s largest sum next season. A record $25 million is headed his way, though that total will decrease a bit in time and will certainly he surpassed by Matthew Stafford and possibly Kirk Cousins in the near future.

“I don’t care if they all do. We got our contract done, that’s all that matters to me,” Carr said. “The other thing that was important to me is that we didn’t worry about what other people were going to do or doing. I just wanted to get mine done and make sure that the team had, again like we talked about, flexibility to make sure my friends stay around.”

Carr was intimately involved in the negotiation process. Both sides said it was easy, wrapped up well before Carr’s training-camp contract deadline. Common ground was found in short shrift once talks warmed up – preliminary talks started months ago -- and a deal was ironed out that produced smiles on both sides once the deal was formally done.

Even after taking a relatively soft-line stance on dollars and the timing of payments – Carr could’ve been difficult all year and eventually forced a franchise tag – he’s still the league’s highest-paid player. His salary will now be compared with his stats. He was a second-round draft steal before. Now he’s a big-money player. In short, expectations will rise.

Carr insists it won’t add pressure to next year’s proceedings.

“You could give me a dollar, you could give me $25 million, it doesn’t matter,” Carr said. “To me, my No. 1 goal is to make sure that I give everything that I have to this organization. There’s no pressure. There’s no we’ll be on the 1-yard line and I won’t give it to Marshawn (Lynch), I’ll throw it. None of that stuff. I don’t care about the stats. That’s not my No. 1 objective. I don’t care if I throw 10 touchdowns next year. If we win every game, that’s all I care about.”