The Oakland Raiders.
Forget the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns? Pffft, please. Once upon a time, there was no more hated rival for the Pittsburgh Steelers than the Oakland Raiders. In the 1970s, it was the marquee match-up.
The only other rivalry remotely in the same stratosphere was the Steelers and Cowboys. Ironically, a key part of the Cowboys success was owed to a Pittsburgh area high school legend, Tony Dorsett. Today, another local high school legend, Terrelle Pryor, is attempting to lead the Raiders back into relevance. Can lightning strike twice?
If it does, it will hardly be the first time the Steelers have been snakebit by the Raiders. With Halloween right around the corner, it’s somewhat appropriate we play this week in the Oakland Coliseum, which has been something of a traditional House of Horror for the Black and Gold. Granted the teams don’t face each other regularly but it’s still hard to believe the Steelers haven’t won there since way back in 1995.
STEELERS DEFENSE vs RAIDERS OFFENSE
Pryor will no doubt be primed to have a monster game against his hometown team. The last time the Steelers faced a local kid starting at QB for the Raiders, Bruce Gradkowski engineered a monumental upset. Pryor is a totally different QB, however. He’s not a traditional passer, in fact the team is ranked 32nd in pass offense indicating he’s not much of a passer at all. Pryor’s early success is entirely owed to playing Kordell Stewart-esque QB, killing teams with his speed and athleticism – he’s averaging an insane 6.5 YPC – while mixing in a few well-timed pass plays.
And like Slash, the key to this game will be the Steelers ability to keep Pryor in the pocket. It’s no secret, Dick LeBeau is going to dare Pryor to beat him with arm. The last time the Steelers employed such a strategy, Tim f’n Tebow burned them thanks to Ike Taylor having possibly the worst game by a DB in the history of football. I think poor Ike still has sunburn from that scorching.
Oakland’s offensive weapons are singularly unimpressive. Injury prone RB Darren McFadden is averaging a fine 3.9 YPC but has only rushed for 297 yards through six games (50 yards per game). Denarious Moore (400 yards, 4 TDS) is really the team’s lone receiving threat with Rod Streater and TE Mychal “Brother of that hot Glee Chick” Rivera mediocre targets at best.
Lawrence Timmons will play despite breaking his hand last week against the Ravens. He had an incredible 17 tackles last week owing to the team’s excellent run stoppage and Joe Flacco’s love affair with checkdowns. The front three of Steve McClendon, Cam Heyward and Ziggy Hood/Bret Keisel (who is banged up) had by far their best showing, a trend which hopefully continues against Oakland’s fierce rushing attack. If the secondary can keep it together – and if the suddenly improved run defense can continue to play stout – Oakland should have trouble moving the ball
STEELERS OFFENSE vs RAIDERS DEFENSE
Can we score more than one touchdown? Please?
The last time we met the Raiders, Ben Roethlisberger threw for a career best 384 yards in a losing effort. If he does that again this week, it’ll be something of a surprise because Oakland has a fairly decent defense. They’re right smack in the middle of the league in almost every category, ranking 16th against the pass, 10th against the run, and 13th in yards surrendered.
Of course, Baltimore came in with a decent run D and promptly got shredded by future Hall of Famer Le’Veon Bell. Bell’s breakout really made the difference in last week’s offensive performance as by establishing a running game, it put less pressure on Ben and less pressure on the offensive line to protect him. And when you’re dealing with the lowdown dirty cheatin’ Raiders, we definitely want to protect him this week.
Marcus Gilbert is scheduled to start this week at RT. There were some people calling for Guy Whimper to start. All this shows is just how pathetic the offensive line has been. Like the old adage, “If you have two starting QBs, you really have none,” if you have four tackles, you really have a whole bunch of mediocrity. The good news for whomever starts is Oakland doesn’t have the most ferocious pass rush of all time. They only amassed 16 total sacks, led by the formidable defensive end duo of veteran Jason Hunter (2 sacks) and underrated star Lamarr Houston (3).
The Raiders spent some money this off-season rebuilding their secondary. They added ageless wonder Charles Woodson, former Cowboy Mike Jenkins, and Tracey Porter, who was run out of town after the doof allowed that game-tying bomb in the Ravens-Broncos playoff game. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders should be able to make some plays against this crew even though they’ve done a pretty decent job thus far.
Two weeks in a row now Ben has had a sure TD dropped in the end zone – AB two weeks ago, rookie Derek Moye last week – so I hope it’s not too much to ask for them to CATCH THE DAMN BALL should they get open. I mean, Stonecold Shaun Suisham has been money but getting into a punt, pass, and kick contest every week isn’t a recipe for sustained success.
And success is the order of the day. The Steelers have slowly but surely attempted to dig themselves out of their 0-4 hole. In order to keep that on track, they now have to dig themselves out of the Black Hole.