Perhaps current Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr was right; maybe the football did hit the ground. Perhaps former Raiders’ owner Al Davis was right; maybe Frenchy Fuqua really did touch the football. Perhaps former Raiders’ head coach John Madden was right; maybe the officials on hand at Three Rivers Stadium on December 23, 1972, really did say, “Six for Pittsburgh!” after finding out that there were only six officers available to protect them from an angry mob once they admitted that the play that would come to be known as the Immaculate Reception was totally illegal and was about to be reversed while half of Pittsburgh was celebrating on the field.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe any of that malarkey, but the Raiders and their fans clearly have for the past 49 years. I don’t know, maybe the Steelers can hold a press conference at Pittsburgh International Airport, right in front of the famous Franco Harris statue, and publicly admit that the Raiders were robbed of a divisional-round victory nearly five decades after the fact. What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like the NFL would strip Pittsburgh of the playoff win. Heck, the Steelers lost the next week anyway.
Just let the Raiders believe they were wronged. Maybe that will lift this curse that has plagued the Steelers’ portion of the rivalry for the past 19 years. That’s right, much like a person getting the shingles 30 years after having Chickenpox, Pittsburgh spent decades avoiding the curse the Raiders must have placed on the franchise the second the Immaculate Reception play was upheld. In the meantime, the Steelers were able to win four Super Bowls, find a second Hall of Fame coach the moment their first Hall of Fame coach retired, win more Super Bowls, and find a potential future Hall of Fame coach right after their second Hall of Fame coach resigned.
But something weird started happening not long after the Steelers’ second Super Bowl era was ushered in with a victory over the Seahawks in February of 2006: the Raiders, a once-great franchise that was in the beginning stages of a two-decade run of mediocre-to-bad football, began ruining Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes with upset victories time and time again.
It began early in the 2006 season with a victory over the Steelers at the Black Hole in Oakland, a game that included four interceptions by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The curse reared its ugly head a few years later with a last-second victory at Heinz Field late in the 2009 campaign. The Raiders defeated Pittsburgh in the Hole in both 2012 and, again, in 2013. The Steelers last game in Oakland occurred late in the 2018 season and included a mysterious rib injury suffered by Roethlisberger, head coach Mike Tomlin’s mystifying approach to the quarterback’s participation for the remainder of the game and, oh yeah, a heartbreaking loss after Chris Boswell slipped while trying to kick a game-tying field goal.
Do you know how every Steelers campaign has ended following regular-season losses to the Raiders dating back to 2006? Not in the postseason, that’s how.
That’s right, the last time the Steelers lost to the Raiders in the regular season and went on to make the playoffs was way back in 2002. I was at that game—a 30-17 Week 2 loss at Heinz Field. Just to give you an idea of how long ago that was, I had just turned 30 and was worried about being old.
Why am I writing all of this malarkey? Because the Steelers just lost to the Las Vegas Raiders at Heinz Field on Sunday. Either that means the Steelers have 15 meaningless games left to play in the 2021 regular season, or they better call in a high priest to take care of this curse.
P.S. - There’s another curse you should know about, and it involves the Steelers missing the playoffs following regular-season home losses to both the Raiders AND Bengals.
I have no idea why I just brought that up...