RAIDERS 21 -- The Pittsburgh Steelers returned to their roots -- a strong running game and creative pressure defense -- to open an early two-touchdown lead, then held off several Oakland comebacks to win, 24-21, Sunday on Jeff Reed's 42-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining.
The Raiders (0-1) showed off plenty of new, including Coach Norv Turner, big defensive linemen Warren Sapp and Ted Washington and an offensive scheme redesigned to cover up their lack of playmakers. But the Steelers (1-0) won the traditional AFC rivalry by going retro.
Bettis, relegated to the bench behind Duce Staley despite being the No. 6 rusher in league history, was used only in goal-line situations but scored a career high-tying three touchdowns -- all on one-yard runs. He had more touchdowns (three) than yards rushing (one), as Staley, the former Eagles 1,000-yard rusher, did most of the damage with 91 yards in his Pittsburgh debut.
The Steelers led 14-0 and 21-10, but the Raiders tied it on Alvis Whitted's fingertip catch of Rich Gannon's 38-yard touchdown pass. Gannon and Whitted followed that with a two-point conversion with 4 minutes 51 seconds remaining.
But Oakland's offense never got the ball back. Tommy Maddox hit Hines Ward for 15 and 11 yards and Jay Riemersma for 12 on a decisive drive that started at the Steelers 22 and ended with Reed's field goal.
Coach Bill Cowher was determined to get back to the Steelers' traditional strengths, their running game and big-play defense, after experimenting during last year's 6-10 season with a pass-heavy offense and a passive defense designed to allow few big plays.
The plan worked perfectly for much of the first half. The Steelers kept the ball for eight and a half minutes on a game-opening 67-yard drive that featured Staley running behind left guard Alan Faneca and Bettis's one-yard scoring run.
Not long after that, linebacker Clark Haggans forced Gannon to fumble and Aaron Smith returned it 49 yards to the Raiders 20. Staley then carried three times to set up Bettis's second scoring run early in the second quarter.
The scoring didn't come easily, though. The Raiders spent most of the first half going nowhere, reminiscent of their 27-7 loss in Pittsburgh late in last year's 4-12 season -- the worst record by a team that went to the Super Bowl the season before. But Gannon's pump fake fooled safety Troy Polamalu on a 58-yard scoring pass to Doug Gabriel late in the second quarter, getting Oakland to within 14-7 at the half.
Maddox's 39-yard completion to Ward, the Steelers' only long-yardage passing play of the game, led to Bettis's third scoring run late in the third and a 21-10 lead. Again, Oakland looked ready to be beaten, especially after Gannon was intercepted by linebacker James Farrior on the Raiders' next possession. But a Maddox fumble, recovered by Travian Smith, led to Sebastian Janikowski's 38-yard field goal that cut it to 21-13.
Gannon went 20 of 37 for 305 yards but lost the fumble and had two interceptions. Maddox was 13 of 22 for 142 yards.