Thursday, October 31, 2013

Late Bruins push falls short

By Steve Conroy
October 31, 2013

Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin (71) has a shot blocked by Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin (71) has a shot blocked by Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH — There’s a funny thing about furious comebacks. If you complete one, it tends to wipe away all the sins that had been committed beforehand.

But if you fall short, penance must be paid.

That was the case with the Bruins last night at Consol Energy Center. After falling behind by two goals on turnovers, the B’s got one back on Jarome Iginla’s long-range shot with 1:43 left and goalie Tuukka Rask pulled for an extra skater. The Bruins had several great looks for a potential tying goal, including one from David Krejci in the final seconds, but Pittsburgh goalie Marc Andre-Fleury stood tall and the Penguins won, 3-2.

At the end it felt like Pittsburgh escaped with one, but in truth the Penguins were the better team for most of the night. The B’s managed few scoring chances against in the first two periods and, if not for Rask (28 saves), they could have been down by more than the 1-0 score that they were entering the third.

It was the first road loss this season for the Bruins, who now also have their first losing streak entering a game tonight against the Anaheim Ducks at the Garden.

Last night, the B’s did not take advantage of the edge they hold in the brawn department.

“We didn’t play to our identity,” coach Claude Julien said. “We didn’t play a heavy game tonight for at least two periods. When we did in the third it made a difference. We got ourselves back in the game. We had to play three periods like we did in the third and that wasn’t the case. We knew they were going to come out hard and they did.”

The B’s allowed the Penguins some level of satisfaction, however small it may have been, after sweeping them out of the Eastern Conference finals last spring. And there was plenty of disappointment to go around in the visitors dressing room.

“We played with too much hesitation,” B’s captain Zdeno Chara said. “We were not jumping on loose pucks and when you play a team like this, they’re going to take advantage of that.

“We did a better job in the third, but we have to play that way for 60 (minutes), not just the last 20.”

Chris Kunitz gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 6:54 of the second period on a power-play goal. The B’s tied the game at 1:05 of the third when Patrice Bergeron redirected home a Dennis Seidenberg shot past Fleury.

A misplay and a mistake then put Pittsburgh in control. First, Brandon Sutter put the Penguins up 2-1 when he was able to chip the puck past Torey Krug, who had tried to poke the it out of the defensive zone. Sutter blew past Krug and beat Rask with a shot under the crossbar with 9:00 left.

“I read it right, but I wasn’t in the right spot to pick it off. I just missed it,” Krug said. “It was a nice play by him tipping the puck. If you guys could see it from where I was, it was a very impressive play. Unfortunately, I didn’t play it right and he went in and scored.”

With 2:02 left, Johnny Boychuk sent a risky pass to Jordan Caron in the the defensive zone, but Jussi Jokinen was able to jump Caron quickly, turn the puck over and score from the slot.

“I hit (Caron) on the tape and it maybe just bounced and they were able to capitalize on it,” Boychuk said.

The B’s closed to within one when Bergeron won a faceoff to Milan Lucic and Lucic dished it to Iginla for the goal. Despite a heavy attack at the end, the Bruins could not pop home the equalizer. And needless to say, the B’s didn’t enjoy the Red Sox’ World Series win last night like other Bostonians.

“I think we can all look in the mirror here and we can certainly play better, there’s no doubt about (that),” Julien said. “I guess now it’s the ebbs and flows of the early season. I think we have to look ourselves in the mirror and start playing to what our identity is and take some pride in it.”

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

THEIR LIFE'S WORK, The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and Now

Interview With Author Gary Pomerantz Of The New Steelers Book – “Their Life’s Work”
October 26, 2013

Today we chat with Gary Pomerantz, the author of the new book out in stores this week on the 1970′s Steelers, entitled “Their Life’s Work.”

You can see Gary and Steeler HOF RB Franco Harris on the CBS Sunday Morning pregame show and ESPN on Monday.

Here’s what he had to say about the new book, which is a fantastic read.

1. What was your inspiration behind doing a book on the 70’s Steelers? Had it been something you had been thinking about for a long time?

GP: I met these Steelers once long ago. It was summer 1981 – thirty-two years ago. I was young and impressionable, a 20-year old sportswriting intern at The Washington Post. I was given a dream assignment by my editors: Go to the Steeler training camp in Latrobe, Pa. and spend a couple days to see if the NFL’s 1970s dynasty was finally finished.

Nearly all of the stars were still there, and I’m sure that I must’ve been starry-eyed. I interviewed Bradshaw, Franco, Stallworth, Swann, Coach Chuck Noll. As I interviewed Mean Joe Greene, I remember thinking, This guy’s bicep is bigger than my thigh!

They all moved with such swagger. They were special and historic, and they knew it. And they were ALL great interviews. It was like they were lit from within. They were incandescent.

The array of talent on that team was arresting, and so were the personalities. Even a 20-year-old-sportswriter couldn’t miss that. Though I didn’t know it, the seed for this book was planted way back then.

Now football is under the microscope. The game is being scrutinized for its violence. The focus is on brain injuries, certainly football’s highest cost. So I decided that, if I was going to examine football for what it gives to players, and what it takes from them, who better to use as a case study than the best team I ever saw, those men I met in Latrobe 32 years ago?

In my narrative I would follow this team across the decades, through middle age and beyond, to explore football’s gifts and costs.

2. The stories around Art Rooney are simply mind blowing – knowing him as you did, what do you think he would feel about how the Steelers franchise is today?

If the Chief taught his eldest son, Dan, one overriding life lesson about what it means to be a Rooney in Pittsburgh, it was this: You must keep the Steelers viable, and you must keep the team in Pittsburgh, and to do that you must help the league and the city to remain viable. And Dan has certainly done all of that.

The Chief would be quite pleased to see the financial health of the franchise, and blown away by how spiffy and state-of-the-art Heinz Field is. As for that bronze statue of the Chief by Gate D, the way some women lean back into the Chief’s lap as they pose for photos, well, THAT would make the Chief blush.

Remember, he bought the team for $2,500 in 1933. He was betting more than that on some horse races then. To think that this same team has been valued recently at up to $1.2 billion dollars would cause him to swallow his cigar.

3. Any player or person that you interviewed that took you totally by [surprise?] shock in the way they acted as opposed to the way Steeler fans may have portrayed them in the 70’s?

John Stallworth stood out in multiple ways. He didn’t surprise me, but he surely impressed me. Stallworth is not only a Hall of Fame receiver, he’s also a businessman who earned his MBA before retiring from football in 1987. He left football, returned home to Alabama, and built an information technology firm in the aerospace industry. Years later, he sold it for a reported $69 million. Today, he is a minority owner of the Steelers.

That alone is impressive.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “There are no second acts in American lives,” but he never knew John Stallworth.

But even more than that, Stallworth impressed me with his depth, his sensitivity, and his introspection. He’s deeply introspective. He spoke of teammates with such feeling. He is a very classy guy.

4. What is your single fondest memory of writing the book as in a particular moment with a player, coach, person involved?

I flew to Dallas to interview Joe Greene at his home. I brought a DVD of Super Bowl IX with me. I wanted to watch the game with him so that he could critique certain key plays. He told me he’d never watched that game, which shocked me, actually.

Greene sat on a couch in the den, and his wife Agnes sat in the recliner next to him. We all watched it together. Greene paused the DVD numerous times, got up from the couch, and walked to the TV, to point out the intricacies of plays.

At one moment, just as the Steelers pulled away from the Vikings, Greene became joyous. He started chanting from the couch, “Here we go Steelers, here we go!” He was young again, and frankly, it was beautiful to see.

5. Are you among the many that feel that the 1970’s Steelers is truly the greatest team any decade has ever seen?

Absolutely. Let me state it directly: The 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers were the greatest football team in history, or at least since the earth’s crust cooled.

But you don’t need to take my word for it.

Just listen to Bill Walsh, who coached the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl victories during the Eighties.

The old Steeler lineman Gordon Gravelle (1972-76) told me a great story. He said he introduced himself to Walsh at a charity event in California in 2003.

“I remember you,” Walsh said.

And then Walsh thumped Gravelle in the chest with his index finger and said about the 1970s Steelers, “Best team ever!”

Gravelle said, “Well, what about your 49ers?”

Walsh thought about it. He said, “We might’ve given you a run for your money.”

Walsh’s eyes twinkled, and he said as he thumped Gravelle’s chest again with his index finger, “But you were the best team ever.”

Canes see why Pittsburgh's Crosby is the model player

By Chip Alexander
October 29, 2013

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 — It was apparent from the opening face-off Monday that Sidney Crosby was not going to let the Pittsburgh Penguins lose.
Crosby won the draw against the Hurricanes’ Jordan Staal. Later in the first period, the Pens captain won another against Elias Lindholm, leading to the first goal of the game.
Crosby, the NHL’s leading scorer, had two assists for the night. He played more than 23 minutes, and for much of the Pens’ 3-1 win over the Canes, he again was the best player on the ice at PNC Arena as Pittsburgh ended a three-game skid.
Hours before the game, Canes coach Kirk Muller talked of Crosby, of what impressed him most about the sport’s biggest star. He quickly mentioned Crosby’s skills, but also his focus.
“He seems like he’s into every game,” Muller said. “He does his work as far as preparation, but when that game hits it looks like the only thing on his mind is that game.
“He knows his opponent; he’s done his preparation; he’s ready to play, and he’s got the skill level to add to it, obviously. You combine that and you have an elite player ready to play every night.”
That’s the kind of every-game intensity and concentration Muller has sought to instill in his team. And it’s interesting that Crosby, in turn, credits Muller in part.
“That means a lot coming from him,” Crosby said Monday of Muller’s praise.
Crosby said as a young kid growing up in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, he was thrilled when the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1993. He admired the way Muller played the game and later served as the Habs’ team captain.
“I was a big Montreal Canadiens fan, and I remember watching Kirk play a lot,” Crosby said. “He was probably one of my favorite players. The way he competed. He did it all. He was offensively pretty gifted, but he blocked shots and played against other teams’ top lines and was responsible all over the ice.”
It’s Crosby’s all-over-the-ice play that Pens coach Dan Bylsma appreciates. Bylsma said many people watch a hockey highlight and see a great skill play and marvel at Crosby’s talent, but it’s the other things Crosby does during a game that catch a coach’s eye.
“How he plays the game all over the ice is really more fantastic than the highlight we see on the post-game show,” Bylsma said. “It’s who he plays against, all the situations. That’s the amazing part to me. He has (the) points, and you say that’s a great number, but how he plays, where he plays, every night, is the exceptional part about his game.”
The Hurricanes have players who are proven point producers: Eric Staal. Alex Semin. Jeff Skinner, when healthy.
The Canes, in losing three straight games, have scored just four goals, so offensive production is becoming a problem. But for Muller, to be a better team, to reach the playoffs, the Canes must be tougher and more effective in all three zones.
“It’s a commitment we’ve been preaching from day one this year – playing better without the puck,” Muller said.
In analyzing the loss to the Pens, Muller said the Canes came up “light.” The Pens, he said, played a “heavier” game and the Canes did not respond well, certainly not in the third period.
By game’s end, Pittsburgh rookie Jayson Megna had his first NHL goal and assist and defenseman Brooks Orpik had three assists. Crosby’s line: two points, 16 face-off wins, a plus-3 rating.
And a victory.
“I think you have to prepare,” Crosby said. “It’s tough to be consistent, especially with so many games. Every night teams want to shut you down, keep you off the score sheet, prevent you from creating chances. So mentally you have to be ready to compete and expect that every night. I think that’s a big part of the game, anyone will tell you, no matter what position they play.
“You’re not going to play 82 of your best games, and it’s pretty rare when you actually feel 100 percent over the course of 82 games, so I think whether it’s your line mates or your teammates, you have to be in it together and help each other out. At the same time, individually, you have to make sure you prepare to give yourself the best chance to perform every night.”
Take it from the guy at the top.
Alexander: 919-829-8945 Twitter: @ice_chip

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Larkspur's Pomerantz explores Pittsburgh Steelers' dynasty of 1970s

By Tim Menicutch
IJ correspondent
October 20, 2013
Their Life's Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and Now

The Steel Curtain never closes. It can't.
Even if time dims the memory of the greatest football dynasty in history, the story of the four-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s is so deeply wedged into NFL folklore there will forever be a tiny crack, providing at least a glimpse of the storied franchise for future generations to examine and admire.
A peak behind the Steel Curtain, however, was never enough to quell the thirst of the Steelers' story for Larkspur resident and author Gary Pomerantz.
In his new book, "Their Life's Work," set to settle onto shelves Oct. 29 with an unveiling in Pittsburgh's Heinz History Center on Oct. 30, Pomerantz has flung the Curtain wide open for an up-close and intimate look at the 1970s Steelers.
"My goal was to put the reader there, to take them behind the castle walls, to put them in the locker room, to put them in the Steel Curtain's defensive huddle," said Pomerantz, who spent 3½ years penning his fifth nonfiction book.
According to some critics, Pomerantz's book scores a decisive touchdown.

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Canes lose 3rd straight as Pens win 3-1 in Raleigh

Jayson Megna #59, Brooks Orpik #44, Sidney Crosby #87 and Paul Martin #7 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate a first-period goal scored by Tanner Glass against the Carolina Hurricanes during their NHL game at PNC Arena on October 28, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
RALEIGH — One losing streak had to end. Another had to continue.
That’s what was facing the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday at PNC Arena. One team would leave the ice happy and relieved and the other searching for answers.
The Penguins won 3-1, ending a three-game losing streak. The Canes lost their third in a row, falling to 4-5-3 and dropping five points behind the Pens, who lead the Metropolitan Division.
Sidney Crosby, as he so often is, was the Pens’ leader. While rookie forward Jayson Megna was named the game’s first star after scoring his first NHL goal and adding an assist, Crosby again was the game’s biggest star.
Crosby’s crisp cross-ice pass set up Chris Kunitz for the winning goal late in the second period. His shot early in the third glanced off Megna and past Canes goalie Justin Peters for a 3-1 lead.
“They’ve got a lot of guys who have been to the (Stanley Cup) finals and played in big games,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said. “In the third period, when they got the lead, they know how to play the game and shut teams down.
“But I’m more concerned that we kind of got pushed out of the game. They played a heavier game than we did. They won more battles and they grinded it harder and their big boys at the end of the night were on the score sheet.”
Crosby entered the game as the NHL’s top scorer with 18 points. But defenseman Brooks Orpik was the Pens’ top scorer Monday with three assists while Tanner Glass had a first-period goal.
The Canes’ goal came from Nathan Gerbe on a 5-on-3 power play in the first period, which ended 1-1. Gerbe, playing his 200th career game, took a pass in the slot from Elias Lindholm – who notched his first NHL assist – and beat Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
But that was it. The Canes had other chances but couldn’t finish as Fleury closed with 20 saves and the Pens’ defense was active and positionally sound.
Glass struck first on the rebound of a Megna shot after Crosby won a faceoff to Orpik, who whipped a pass to Megna breaking down the right wing. On the Pens’ second goal, Kunitz won a race against the Canes’ Jordan Staal to one-time the puck past Peters for his fifth of the season.
“Their big boys came up big and some of our guys have to start contributing,” Muller said.
Muller put Gerbe on the top line with Eric Staal and Semin, and Gerbe had five of the Canes’ 21 shots. Semin, who extended his point streak to four games, had three shots and another five attempts that either were blocked or missed the net.
“Sometimes we got away from our game, but overall I thought we played well, but we have to score on our chances and power plays,” Gerbe said.
The Canes received a scare in the third period when Jordan Staal collided with Kunitz, spun and fell to the ice. Staal was helped to the dressing room but soon returned to the game.
But the Pens (8-4-0) were in charge by then. Defenseman Rob Scuderi missed the game with an injury, but Orpik, Paul Martin, rookie Olli Maatta and others on the back end were quick with their sticks, and Crosby was everywhere on the ice.
“They’re a tough team. They lock it down pretty well,” Canes defenseman Ron Hainsey said. “For everyone who thinks they’re as offensive as they are, you saw that once they take a little bit of a lead, they don’t take too many chances.”
The Canes played without top scorer Jeff Skinner, out a second game with an upper-body injury. Skinner may return Friday against Tampa Bay, Muller said.
“We’re not giving up much,” Muller said “It’s just when we do … the good players capitalize on us. We need more from other people as well. Certain guys are there to produce but there are other guys who have to start bringing something to the table.
“When you play a team like Pittsburgh, you can’t play an average game. You’ve got to bring more. We were light tonight.”
Alexander: 919-829-8945
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Monday, October 28, 2013

Malkin's been a cash cower

By Mark Madden
October 28, 2013

No need to worry about the Penguins’ three-game losing streak. It’s nothing compared to a four-game losing streak in the Eastern Conference final.
It’s October. The Penguins are 7-4 and lead their division. The absences of James Neal and Beau Bennett are causing negative trickledown up front. But Neal and Bennett should be back before too long. Rob Scuderi’s injury? That’s a problem.
So is the extended mediocre play of Evgeni Malkin.
Yes, it’s time for that column. Already.
Malkin makes $8.7 million. Next season, that jumps to $9.5 million per year through 2022. Malkin has 10 points in 11 games. He’s tied for 42nd in the NHL in scoring.

For most players, that’s good.
But Malkin’s points don’t match his price, and haven’t since 2011-12. Malkin had just nine goals and 24 assists in 31 games last season. He had 16 points in 15 playoff games, but didn’t score in the Eastern Conference final as Boston swept.
Neither did Sidney Crosby. Like it or not, that comparison is always there. The double donut against the Bruins noted, it doesn’t favor Malkin.
Crosby is a buzzsaw: 110 percent every shift and the fourth-best points-per-game average in NHL history.
Crosby and Malkin were once considered virtual equals, but no longer. If anything, the gap is growing at a rapid pace.
Malkin, to his credit, doesn’t make excuses. He verbally accepted responsibility for his poor performance against Boston. Malkin’s effort very occasionally drags, but not often enough to warrant criticism. He’s dedicated. He’s motivated.
But Malkin’s production is inadequate and inconsistent. He piles up errors: Witness two turnovers that led to goals at Toronto Saturday night. Those mistakes were garnished by an offensive-zone penalty, a Malkin specialty.
The Penguins need better. At that salary, they require better.
It’s difficult to identify exactly what’s wrong. But whatever Malkin lacked last season, he still hasn’t got. His last two games produced just three shots total.
Neal, Malkin’s usual linemate, is out. That hurts, especially when Chuck Kobasew is the replacement. But what were Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis before Sidney Crosby?
What was Neal before Malkin? Malkin won his first scoring title while playing on a line with Ruslan Fedotenko and a rapidly slowing Petr Sykora.
In 1988-89, Mario Lemieux got 199 points skating between Bob Errey and Rob Brown. Lemieux helped Brown post 115 points. He spoon-fed Warren Young 40 goals in 1984-85. Brown and Young were otherwise nondescript.
No one expects Malkin to be Lemieux. But great players elevate their linemates. Great players produce regardless of circumstance.
Even if his linemates lack, Malkin is on a high-octane power play. Make up numbers there.
Malkin has just 12 goals in his last 42 regular-season games. He has two scoring titles, one MVP and one playoff MVP, but those things are ancient history.
Malkin usually breaks out when Crosby is hurt. If that’s the only time Malkin lives up to his payday, it greatly dilutes the value of having both Crosby and Malkin. It’s quite a paradox: Malkin seems to like Crosby handling the burden of being top dog, but Malkin doesn’t always maximize when he’s in the shadows.
The money matters. The salary cap dictates. Malkin’s cap hit trails only Alexander Ovechkin’s at the top of the NHL heap. Production must equal pay.
Malkin isn’t a leader. He’s not a locker-room guy. He’s not gritty. The Penguins don’t need him to sell tickets. Getting on the score sheet is all he offers. So he must.
Malkin hasn’t had one dominant game so far this season. Not one.
It’s early, especially if last year is ignored. Is Malkin’s urgency to be questioned? Doesn’t matter, because the Penguins have no one who dares question it.
Michel Therrien was an ideal coach for Malkin. Therrien would point at the scoring leaders and ask Malkin, “Where’s your name?”
Good question.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9)

Oakland Raiders defense showing its mettle

By Mark Purdy
October 27, 2013
Oakland Raiders' Kaluka Maiava (50), left, and Lamarr Houston (99), under quarterback, sack Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) in the second quarter yesterday. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND -- The Raiders opened Sunday's game with a big bang. First scrimmage play. Here came quarterback Terrelle Pryor. There went quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
"Obviously, we got off to a fast start," coach Dennis Allen said of the 93-yard touchdown run.
But then the real work started.
And most of the heavy lifting in the 21-18 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers was done by the Raiders defense.
That is no misprint. Pryor, a first-year starter at quarterback, is brilliant but inconsistent. He produced just 35 yards of offense in Sunday's second half. So it is incumbent upon the Raiders defense that was justifiably maligned a year ago to be extremely non-maligned this year.
Against the Steelers, it was non-maligned just enough.
"I think the feeling with us," said safety Charles Woodson, "is that if the offense gets us 21 points, we should win the game."
This mantra, in a slightly different form, has indeed been preached by fiery defensive coordinator Jason Tarver since summer training camp. Tarver set the mission: He wanted the Raiders defense to allow 17 points or less per game. That should be good enough to produce a victory.
Sunday, the Raiders missed their target by one. Yet Tarver's basic concept remains correct. The Raiders now own a 3-4 won-lost record. They've allowed an average of 14.7 points in the victories and 26.5 points in the defeats.
"I think we're a good defense," Woodson said. "We still have a lot of room for improvement."
Quite properly, he didn't want to get too giddy about Sunday's result. But it was no small thing, what the Raiders defense accomplished -- even against a struggling Steelers team.
How about allowing just 35 rushing yards? How about picking off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice? And sacking him five times?
"That's a big deal," said Raiders linebacker Sio Moore of the sacks, two of which he accomplished. "And that's a big guy. When you think Ben's down, he's not down. You have to hold on for dear life a little bit."
Exactly. A year ago, the Raiders also defeated the Steelers here at Coliseum. But with Carson Palmer playing quarterback for the home team, it was a 34-31 shootout game in which Roethlisberger completed 36 of 49 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns. He was sacked only once.
For the Raiders to win Sunday, that couldn't happen again. And it didn't. Roethlisberger completed 29 of 45 for 275 yards but threw for only one touchdown -- and had those two interceptions. In a nutshell, that is the true difference between the Raiders of 2012 and 2013. You might want to file that away for future reference.
How are they doing it? Some of it is personnel. Some of it is preparation. Most of it is execution.
The Raiders' decision last offseason to ditch some of the older and more cynical defenders has been well documented. They've been replaced by better-attitude guys. But it still comes down to the details that lead to big plays.
Want examples? It comes down to the way cornerback Michael Jenkins positioned himself perfectly to get his fourth-quarter interception. It comes down to the way Woodson remembered his video study and blew up an attempted Steelers screen pass by reading his keys and tackling Le'Veon Bell for a 2-yard loss. All of it mattered in a game where the Steelers made a late push but couldn't get over the hump.
"We are better in the secondary," Allen said after Sunday's game. "We do a better job of covering. We do a better job of keeping the ball in front of us. Those guys are doing a nice job of understanding what we're trying to ask them to do. It's allowed us to do some different things from a defensive standpoint. We can get a little more aggressive."
Allen also is not totally shocked that this is happening. As an NFL defensive assistant coach for 10 years, it was profoundly disappointing to him when the 2012 Raiders defense did such a good imitation of Jell-O pudding, at one point giving up 135 total points in three consecutive games.
In 2013, Allen wasn't certain that the younger and less heralded players the Raiders signed would be awesome every week. But he was certain they would try to be.
"I knew we had pros that wanted to come to work every day, that were going to be unselfish," Allen said. "I knew we didn't have a lot of big names. We probably wouldn't do very good in Hollywood. But I knew they were football players."
Sunday's performance definitely raised hopes for better things to come, especially with four losing teams as the next four games on the schedule. But fair warning: The Raiders were also 3-4 after seven games a year ago and proceeded to lose their next six games on the way to a 4-12 finish.
"We've still got to learn to finish better," Allen said. "When you get that type of lead, you've got to have that killer instinct."
Still, there was joy in the Raiders locker room late Sunday afternoon, always a welcome noise. There was also a defense that can do some heavy lifting, a welcome new feature.
Contact Mark Purdy at Follow him on Twitter