Raiders vs. Steelers, what was once a great rivalry…
Nothing was fierier, as vicious or as heated than the Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers rivalry of the 1970s.
This opposition teetered on hate and physical assaults on the football field.
Both organizations have a place in football history that is etched in stone; and both helped each other build on their legacies with the competitive nature of each match-up in the golden era of the NFL.
From 1972-to-1977, they played ten times with both teams winning 5 of those contests. They played in the divisional playoff round in back-to-back years (1972-1973), and those games were split. Then at the height of the rivalry, the Silver & Black faced the Black and Gold in three straight AFC Championship games from 1974-to-1976. Pittsburgh won two out of three and during that span, both organizations were crowned world champions.
But as it stands today, the club that dubs itself the ‘Team of the Decades’ has been mired in a historic slump since 2003 while the Steelers have been perennial players for playoff contention.
Oakland is 27-80 during one of the worst seven-year spans in the history of the league. During that same time, the Steelers are 68-39 with four playoff appearances and adding two more Super Bowl crowns to their record six league titles.
Why have both organizations headed in opposite directions instead of adding to their great past?
One word – continuity.
Yes, just like the Rooney Family, Al Davis has been at the helm of the Oakland Raiders for a long time. The Rooney family is synonymous with Steeler football since 1933.
But unlike the Rooney’s, Davis has failed to keep continuity on the sidelines, the field and in the front office. He has not showed the patience needed to build and has not allowed stability to permeate his organization. The Rooney’s have steered away from controversy in trying to convey one message to the club – just win, baby.
In 40-years of football, dating back to the start of this great rivalry, the Steelers have had three coaches grace their sidelines (Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin). On the other hand, the Raiders have given 10 men the opportunity to lead Davis’ renegades.
That continuity, clear structure, orderliness and well defined roles within the organization that the Steelers posses is what Oakland should try to mimic.
The Rooney’s don’t reign supreme or use their power to influence football decisions that directly effect the product on the field. Davis does.
The Rooney’s allow their scouts and personnel people to find the best talent in the draft and work in unison with the coaches to make the right decisions for the good of the football team. Davis does not.
And that is some of the reasons why this Sunday’s game will not conjure the incredible memories that they should from the past.
Nineteen of the players that competed in the 1970s for both of these organizations have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
On Sunday, you won’t see many potential inductees unless you are talking about the passer that has two-rings already. And Oakland instead of flying into Pittsburgh, trying to win with a new crew of young Raiders that are ready to add to this rivalry, are trying to motivate themselves enough to end the season strong so they can avoid a record seventh straight campaign with 11 or more losses.
It’s sad to see what this rivalry has come to.
But only Oakland is to blame, as Pittsburgh has held up their part of the bargain.
Contact Author: Victor Cotto – SB Report Columnist