The Oakland Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers renew their decades long rivalry in Week 8. Both teams are coming into the game with 2-4 records, albeit under different circumstances. The Steelers are coming in with a two-game winning streak, while the Raiders are coming off a terrible loss in Kansas City followed by a much-needed bye week.
Both teams will take the field with a sense of urgency knowing a win could tee them up for a comeback while a loss could derail their season. The Raiders should go into the game knowing the Steelers haven’t won in Oakland since 1995. The Raiders’ recent success against their bitter rivals does lend to the history of this fixture. A history that goes back four decades and includes many Hall of Famers, including the two head coaches from the 1970s era, John Madden and Chuck Noll. The Steelers and Raiders have played with the same philosophy of hard-nosed defense, playing bump-and-run man corners and deep passing aerial attack. The Steelers still feature the same philosophy in their team while the Raiders’ lack of success in the last decade has hinged on the lack of an elite quarterback.
Raider fans are starting to believe they have finally found their quarterback in young Terrelle Pryor. Coming off, inarguably, his worst game, Pryor will look to exploit a resurgent Steelers defense that has been playing well in the past two weeks. The Steelers, in turn, will look to force the same situations as the Chiefs game, where Pryor was sacked 10 times.
Pittsburgh is coming into the game with a minus-10 turnover differential while the Raiders have a differential of 0. This highlights the struggles of the Steelers defense in forcing turnovers and in addition they have only eight sacks, which puts them 31st in the league. The Raiders defense ranks in the top 10 in just about every category, but the Steelers seem to find their place as usual at the top end of the defensive ranks. At the end of the day, the only statistic that matters is the points allowed and surprisingly, the Raiders and Steelers are tied at 22.0 points allowed.
There are matchups in this game that will sway the outcome of the game. Steelers outside linebacker Lamar Woodley will be handful for right tackle Matt McCants. The Raiders will have to assign extra protection on that side either with an extra tight end (Jeron Mastrud) or fullback Marcel Reece. The Oakland ground game has to help out Pryor by creating manageable down and distance situations. Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau has had considerable success against inexperienced quarterbacks; his various looks on defense have confused many quarterbacks and will present Pryor with a very difficult task.
The Steelers’ offense has begun to get in midseason form and got back to running the football. Rookie running back Le’veon Bell has taken snaps in the wildcat formation and has shown immense patience in finding running lanes given his inexperience in the league. The Raiders will have to stop the run first and create more passing situations; that will tee up the defense to blitz the shaky Steeler offensive line. The Raiders have played most downs in man coverage and the corners will have their hands full with Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders on the outsides and Heath Miller down the middle. Lamar Houston should have a good game against the makeshift Steelers offensive line. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is difficult to bring down, but he has the ability to bounce back and win games.
For the Raiders to win this game, the offense has to bounce back from the last loss and put some points on the board. Pryor has to play well against the “Blitzburgh” defense, the running game has to materialize and the defense has to get off the field on third downs. All in all, I expect a difficult game, but i expect the Raiders to come out victorious.