ALAMEDA – Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor is from Jeannette, Penn., just 30 miles east of Pittsburgh. Center Stefen Wisniewski was born in the city itself, went to high school there and lives there during his offseason.
Both grew up huge Steelers fans.
That was unavoidable in a town obsessed over NFL football and the hometown team in particular. Both have fond memories of the black and gold, but would love nothing more than to beat the Steelers in black and silver.
“Pittsburgh, as a culture, is a football town,” Wisniewski said. “Everybody grows up rooting for and watching the Steelers. It’s cool to play a team that you grew up watching. It’s also cool for bragging rights. I spend my offseasons out there, and I want to be able to hold my head high and wear my Raiders gear with pride.”
Wisniewski was able to last offseason, after the Raiders beat Pittsburgh 34-31 at Oakland Coliseum in 2012. They’ll try for two straight on Sunday afternoon.
Pryor was never a big fan of going to Heinz Field. He never wanted to watch games. He always wanted to play them.
He couldn’t help but marvel at a young Ben Roethlisberger, leading the Steelers to touchdowns and big wins by keeping plays alive inside and outside the pocket.
“I remember being a senior in high school watching Big Ben as a young player,” Pryor said. “He was so great, and still is today. … I really respect his pocket awareness, which is something I’m decent at. He’s very comfortable, his awareness is great and I think you’re just born with that deal. He’s a phenomenal quarterback.”
Pryor has met Roethlisberger a few times, especially after generating buzz with his high school play. He also met Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, shortly after he assumed his post.
“I probably met T.P. about a month after I got here,” Tomlin said. “He was probably 16 or 17 years old. He’s an awesome man and it’s been fun to kind of watch him grow up from afar. We run across each other every now and again. He’s a good man.”
Pryor won’t be in awe of playing the quarterback he followed, the head coach he knows, or his favorite childhood team for the first time.
“I’m ready to play against them,” Pryor said. “It won’t be weird. They’re just another team we have to beat.”