OAKLAND, Calif. — A Pittsburgh Steelers team that kept finding ways to win during a six-game winning streak now has fallen short at the end for a third straight game.
A slick field that led to kicker Chris Boswell losing his footing on a potential game-tying kick is to blame this time.
Boswell missed a 40-yard attempt after the Steelers used a hook-and-lateral to get into position following Derek Carr's go-ahead touchdown pass that sent Pittsburgh to a 24-21 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
"Sometimes it makes it worse when it's right there," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "If you get blown out it doesn't seem to hurt as bad as when you have a chance."
The Steelers (7-5-1) have sure had their chances during their current skid. Roethlisberger threw an interception at the goal line with just over a minute left of a 24-17 loss to Denver on Nov. 25 and Pittsburgh then lost last week when Mike Badgley made a field goal on the final play in a 33-30 victory for the Chargers last week.
This week it was a missed kick by Pittsburgh that determined the outcome. Boswell also missed a 39-yard field goal against the Raiders (3-10) and has six missed field goals and five missed extra points for the most combined missed kicks in the NFL this season.
Coach Mike Tomlin called Boswell's slump disappointing and wouldn't commit to sticking with his kicker long term.
"He's not the only one disappointed," Boswell said. "I mean this is a business. You're evaluated by results and I'm not getting it done right now so whatever happens from here happens."
The loss cost the Steelers a chance to open up some ground in the AFC North race with Baltimore. The Steelers still lead the Ravens by a half-game, but have matchups with New England and at New Orleans the following two weeks.
Roethlisberger almost led an impressive comeback after missing the first four series of the second half with a rib injury. He returned to the game after backup Joshua Dobbs failed to generate any points on four drives and Derek Carr gave Oakland a 17-14 lead with a 3-yard TD pass to Lee Smith with 5:20 to play.
Big Ben then led a 75-yard drive capped by his second 1-yard TD pass of the game to JuJu Smith-Schuster, putting Pittsburgh on top 21-17 with 2:55 to go.
But Roethlisberger was only a spectator as Carr drove the Raiders to the go-ahead score, a 6-yard pass on fourth down to Derek Carrier with 23 seconds left.
"We're there at the ball," Tomlin said. "We're not making plays on the ball. Probably equally as frustrating is we're not making them and they are. It's not like those balls are falling incomplete so we still have work to do."
Pittsburgh almost overcame that when Roethlisberger threw a short pass to James Washington for a 5-yard gain. Washington then flipped the ball to Smith-Schuster, who raced down the sideline for 43 more yards to set up Boswell's kick that went right into the line when he lost his footing.
"The field is the field," he said. "You can't complain about it. You can't blame anything. It's as bad as it is for me as it is for anyone else. You just have to find a way to put it through."