The players are mystified and aching and, in some instances, still meeting their teammates.

The head coach is expressing faith and pleading for patience.

The general manager is perilously close to posting a sign: "Help Wanted." Nobody in the organization has visibly abandoned the goal, but it's Day 14 of a four-month season and already expectations for the New Raiders are shrinking like old grapes.

When they take the field Sunday at the Coliseum to play Pittsburgh, the bar will have dropped, at least temporarily, from achieving victory to showing signs of development.

This truth nauseates a Raider Nation that wanted a new direction, generally embracing new G.M. Reggie McKenzie and accepting new head coach Dennis Allen.

Rookies in their positions, McKenzie and Allen face the task of replacing the legend that was Al Davis. Along with new owner Mark Davis, they also seek to captivate fans weary from the effects of so many unfulfilling seasons -- folks sick of incompetence and tired of excuses.

Aggravating their distress is the blissful chirping of 49ers fans.

This is part of the equation the late Al Davis failed to grasp upon returning to Oakland in 1995 after 13 seasons in Los Angeles. The local NFL landscape had changed. The loyalties of Bay Area fans remained mostly split, but the 49ers won four Super Bowls while the Raiders were in L.A. to solidify their place among the league's elite. They stole a few Raiders fans in the process.

Also, the 49ers set a new standard, one the Raiders needed to match.

They haven't. As hard as it was for Raiders fans to cope with the worst era in franchise history, 2003-09, it was somewhat ameliorated by San Francisco's own simultaneous collapse. No team dominated the market. No team had bragging rights.

Now, the 49ers are back. They were 13-3 last season, a one-year turnaround that put them in the NFC Championship game. Coach Jim Harbaugh is the messiah. Two weeks into this season, the Niners are widely considered the top team in the NFL.

The Raiders, meanwhile, have looked like one of the worst.

"I didn't see losing two starting cornerbacks and a starting tackle,'' says McKenzie, who is patching the team on the fly.

"It hasn't been good,'' Allen concedes. "But I think we're doing the right things. I have faith in what we're doing. The worst thing we could do now is start to waver.''

Few give the Raiders even the slightest chance of beating the Steelers. Oakland's starting lineup is rife with substitutions, and the Steelers are both perennial contender and historic rival.

Will the Raiders finally be able to run the ball with any success, or sustain drives well enough to score multiple touchdowns, or prevent the Steelers from passing for 500 yards and four touchdowns?

Above all, can they show enough to avoid the wrath of their fans?

And boos are sure to clobber them if things don't look any better than they have so far, with all three phases of the New Raiders snapping and cracking and crumbling. The offense isn't running the ball, the defense isn't stopping much, and the special teams are an adventure.

Without evident indicators of progress, it becomes easy to form visions of 2006, the only time in the team's NFL history when the Raiders undoubtedly were the worst team in the league.

With Al Davis miffed and mystified, he went back to Raiders basics, rehiring Art Shell, a Hall of Fame Raiders player who from 1989 through '94 had coached the team, with some success, in Los Angeles.

Shell's quest, dictated by Al, was to restore Raider Pride. The Shell regime was summoned to reignite a fan base that had experienced, for the first time since 1962, three consecutive losing seasons.

The Raiders plummeted to rock bottom, going 2-14. They were shut out three times, held without a touchdown in four more games. They received as a gift the overall No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft.

Two words: JaMarcus Russell.

Like Shell, McKenzie is a former Raider, a 1985 draft pick who spent four years in L.A. When he was introduced in January, so many former Raiders attended the news conference that it looked like a mini-reunion.

So continues the attempt to reestablish the Raider vibe, with McKenzie trying to respect Al's legacy while also turning the page.

That explains why Marcus Allen, one of the greatest Raiders of all time but detested by Al Davis, will on Sunday light the torch that represents the presence of the former owner. It's positive outreach, a signal that old enemies can be new allies.

It does nothing at all, however, for an agitated fan base getting no satisfaction, only grief.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/1montepoole.