Coming off their bye week, the Oakland Raiders are looking to put the screws to Pittsburgh. This may no be an easy task seeing as how the Steelers are on a two-game winning streak, looking to make Oakland No. 3. There are five things that Oakland must focus on to make this meeting at O.Co Coliseum fruitful for the home team.
1. Get Healthy! - Coming out of Kansas City looking like the Walking Dead, Oakland needs to get healthy in a hurry. The bye week always comes when you need it the most and boy, did they ever need it. The entire offensive line was shuffled. That creates communication problems, resulting in an abysmal 10 sacks (four of which are credited to Terrelle Pryor). Getting some bodies back is crucial against a Pittsburgh defense that still counts Troy Polamalu amongst its ranks. They are going to have to pick up the blitz and work together to pull off this win.
2. Run DMC - Historically, Darren McFadden has had good games against Pittsburgh. He always seems to show up a little more ready and prepared. Last season against the Steelers, DMC broke off his longest rush for the year, resulting in a touchdown (I remember this run distinctly because I just happened to walk into a place showing the game and instantly started jumping up and down cheering, looking like a moron … but I digress …). Getting the run game established early and often will ease pressure on Pryor and open up the passing game for Denarius Moore and Rod Streater as well. Being in a contract year, McFadden is eager to show what he’s got, so why not do it against Pittsburgh, like always?
3. Protect Pryor - After a troubled outing in Kansas City, Terrelle Pryor is looking to get back on track. Spending the bye week at the facility soaking in all the tape he could find and working with his mechanics instructor, Tom House, is a surefire way to do that. Will we see him return to his meteoric rise against Pittsburgh? Keeping him upright is a big part of that. His offensive line and his own decision making will go hand-in-hand in making that happen. Even though he can roll out and extend plays, he has to be able to trust his line for protection.
4. Get to Big Ben Early and Often! - Keeping pressure on Ben Roethlisberger is huge to the outcome of this game. Big Ben has the ability to extend plays, but this also affects judgement and accuracy. Making Roethlisberger leave the pocket and extend is important to the Raiders’ defense. Pittsburgh’s O-Line is getting older and Oakland’s defense is bringing faster and more diverse blitz packages, making it harder to react in time. Bringing more blitzes and a faster pass-rush could be the key to rattling Big Ben early.
5. DON’T BEAT YOURSELVES!!! - Pre-snap penalties and foolish mistakes make it harder to win a game. Missing crucial field goals (paging Sebastian Janikowski … Hello?) keeps a team out of a game as well. These things cannot happen against a team of seasoned veterans waiting to pounce on any mistake you might make. With that being said, playing smart is just as important as playing hard.
Expect Sunday’s contest to be a game of good ol’ fashioned hard nosed, old school football. A Raiders vs. Steelers game is always a fun time full of action, excitement and sometimes violence (a la the Richard Seymour vs. Roethlisberger incident …). This will surely be a better game than it looks to be on paper.