PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh native Bruce Gradkowski drove the Raiders 88 yards in less than two minutes for a game-deciding touchdown with 9 seconds left in a 27-24 victory at Heinz Field.
Gradkowski bought time as the receivers ran their routes, spotted Murphy in the left corner of end zone and converted the 11-yard strike.
The Steelers' last-gasp drive ended with an incomplete pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that receiver Limas Sweed dropped in the end zone.
The Raiders gave the Steelers all they could handle in a game in which few people gave the Raiders much of a chance of even keeping close.
Bruce Gradkowski connected with rookie wide receiver Louis Murphy for a 75-yard touchdown with 5 minutes, 28 seconds left in the game to turn a 17-13 deficit into a 20-17 lead on a third-and-one play.
Gradkowski sold the Steelers on a play-action fake, allowed Murphy to sprint free into the secondary and delivered the ball in stride. Murphy beat safety Ike Taylor to the end zone for a touchdown that brought boos cascading from the sold-out crowd at Heinz Field.
The Steelers came right back with a drive that reached the Raiders 11-yard line on the first six plays after Murphy's touchdown and brought about the two-minute warning.
On the seventh play, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected with receiver Hines Ward for an 11-yard touchdown with a well-thrown pass over the head of cornerback Chris
The Raiders began their final drive at their own 12 with 1:48 left. Back-to-back incompletions set up a third-and-10 with 1:29 remaining from the 29. A 12-yard completion to Todd Watkins gave the Raiders a first down at the 41.
Two plays later, Gradkowski and Murphy connected for a 19-yard play to the Steelers 40.
Gradkowski's next pass went in and out of the hands of rookie cornerback Joe Burnett. Murphy outjumped a Steelers safety for a 23-yard reception to the Steelers 17. A delay-of-game penalty pushed the ball back to the 22 with 27 seconds left.
The Steelers were called for a late-hit penalty on the ensuing play on a pass to receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins. The Raiders had a first down at the Steelers 11 with 22 seconds left.
Watkins dropped a pass in the end zone with 15 seconds left and set up Murphy's heroics.
The Raiders took their first lead midway through the fourth quarter on the strength of an 11-play, 57-yard drive.
Gradkowski capped the drive with a well-placed throw to receiver Chaz Schilens for a 17-yard touchdown for a 13-10 lead.
The Steelers responded with a 60-yard drive on two plays, a 57-yard catch-and-run play by receiver Santonio Holmes and a 3-yard run by Rashard Mendenhall.
The Raiders abandoned conventional play-calling a handful of times, with mixed success.
Twice they converted fourth-down plays from the middle of the field. The first conversion kept alive a drive that resulted in a Sebastian Janikowski field goal. The other conversion set up a drive that culminated the go-ahead touchdown from Gradkowski to Schilens.
The Raiders succeeded in keeping the game close by limiting the kind of big plays that haunted them the first 11 games of the season, taking chances and keeping the Steelers out of the end zone.
In the end, it was one big play too many.
The Steelers broke a 3-3 tie early in the second quarter, only seconds after Stefan Logan muffed a punt as he was hit by Raiders strong safety Tyvon Branch.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went right after Branch on the next play. He connected with wide receiver Hines Ward for 27 yards to the Raiders 34 and followed it up with a 34-yard pass to receiver Santonio Holmes for a touchdown.
Branch had decent coverage on Ward, but he was burned by Holmes on a flag route to the right side of the end zone.
In all, the Raiders acquitted themselves well against the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers, on the road, with Gradkowski starting only his third game in relief of the deposed JaMarcus Russell.
The Raiders also were forced to overcome injuries to starting center Samson Satele, starting left guard Robert Gallery and starting strong safety Tyvon Branch.
Three times the Raiders stopped the Steelers in the so-called red zone — the opponent's 20-yard line and in.
The Raiders stuffed Roethlisberger for no gain on a fourth-and-one play and intercepted him on a pass from the Raiders 16 late in the first half. The Steelers kicked a field goal the third time.