The Raiders look to get back on the winning track on Sunday when the Pittsburgh Steelers come to Oakland to continue their long standing rivalry.
Pittsburgh has won 2 games in a row (19-6 against the New York Jets and a 19-16 victory over the Baltimore Ravens) after starting the season with 4 consecutive losses. The Raiders are coming off a bye after a 24-7 loss to Kansas City where the banged up offensive line allowed quarterback Terrelle Pryor to be 9 sacked 9 times.
Head coach Dennis Allen expects a tough game.
“I think as a team they’ve played better football,” he told Raiders.com. “They’ve put an emphasis on the run game, offensively, which has kept them on the field a little bit longer. They’ve controlled the time of possession and they’ve protected the football. Then their defense has done a great job of keeping the ball in front of them and not giving up the explosive plays. When teams have gotten down to the red zone, they’ve done a great job of making them have to kick field goals. This is a good football team that we’re playing, make no mistake about it. They understand how to win. They know what the formula is to in in this league and they’ve done a really good job of it the last couple of weeks.”
Oakland will need to put pressure on Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger to have success and he’s been sacked the 3rd most times in the League. His offensive line has been just as bad as the Raiders, but Big Ben has never really had a line that has been able to protect him. But, he’s a durable player and their defense has really stepped up the last couple weeks to take a little pressure off the offense.
Pittsburgh’s running game isn’t as good as it has been in their Glory Days. They are averaging just 74.3 yards per game (30th) and just 3.5 yards per carry (tied for 26th), they have scored just 2 rushing TD’s (tied for 28th). The Raiders run defense is the 9th best in the League (allowing 99ypg) so Big Ben may need to sling it early and often for Pittsburgh to win. Oakland has really improved that aspect of their defense from last year when they ranked 18th.
Big Ben may have lost Mike Wallace as a free agent to the Miami Dolphins but he has Antonio Brown (47 catches, 11.7ypc and 91.3ypg), Emmanuel Sanders and Jericho Cotchery at wide receiver plus veteran tight end Heath Miller to target in the passing game. Oakland’s defense is ranked 16th against the pass (241ypg), but they have been getting better as the new players in the secondary (free agents safety Charles Woodson, cornerbacks Mike Jenkins, Tracey Porter and 1st round draft pick DJ Hayden) start to get comfortable in defensive coordinator Jason Tarver’s defense. They will need to get turnovers in order to pull out the win, which is where the pass rush will need to help out to pressure Roethlisberger into bad decisions.
On offense, the Raiders will need to focus on running the ball. Pittsburgh’s run defense isn’t as good as it has been in the past. They are allowing 109.3 yards per game, 19th in the NFL. Pryor and running back Darren McFadden will test that defense as that is their best chance to win since they aren’t facing the original Steel Curtain defense. Oakland is averaging 4.7 yards per carry (5th) so the Steelers will be tested by the Raiders big play ability.
The Steelers pass defense is the 4th stingiest in the League (allowing just 197.5ypg), but Pryor has a playmakaer to get the ball to in Denarius Moore (25 catches, 16 yards per catch, 5 plays of at least 20 yards and 4 touchdowns). However, he may be getting defended by more than one player so that opens an opportunity for #2 wide receiver Rod Streater who has shown the ability to make plays of his own during his rookie season last year. This season his best game was 5 catches for 70 yards and that will need to be eclipsed for Oakland to win this game. No chance the Raiders can just run 40 times, they will need to complete some passes in order to keep the changes moving.
-The Raiders are 6-3 in Oakland against the Steelers (and 2-2 when they played in Los Angeles) and lead the all time series, 11-9.
-Oakland claimed Linebacker Martez Wilson off waivers on Wednesday. He was selected in the 3rd round of the 2011 draft by the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are stocked at LB and decided to release him.
“Athletic, he can really run,” Allen told Raiders.com when asked what they liked about him. “He did some good things there with the Saints. He does some good things on special teams. He’s got some rush ability and he’s a good guy as far as coverage linebacker. So we thought he was a guy that we wanted to get in here and take a look at and see what he could do.”
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