Know Thy Enemy: Oakland Raiders

“My name is Michaelius Tomlinus Maximus, Commander of the Armies of Southwest Pennsylvania, General of the Steel Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Artemus Rooney. Father to a concussed quarterback, husband to a hot wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this season or the next.”

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is fired up. In his post-game comments following the devastating loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Tomlin promised to “unleash hell” in December. While I appreciate our coach’s passion, I have to wonder why this sense of urgency only comes after the season is completely out of hand. What did we unleash in November? Slight annoyance?

Fortunately, the Steelers catch two breaks this week. First, their opponent is the wretched Oakland Raiders. Second, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is expected to play. According to Ben, his head is fine, no headaches or any other post-concussion symptoms. In fact, the only part of him that’s hurting are his feelings over Hines Ward’s infamous interview with Bob Costas. Awwwww… If Big Ben manages to clean the sand out of his vagina by game time, the Steelers will once again have their key offensive weapon.

He definitely picked the right week to come back. People have noted Ben usually struggles in his first game back from getting his bell rung. ZOMG, REALLY?!? Luckily for him, he’ll have the Tongan Bulldozer Chris Kemoeatu back to protect him. Plus, this game has Rashard Mendenhall written all over it as the Raiders are second to last in rushing yards allowed per game. Only 0-16 Detroit was worse against the run last season so they attempted to remedy the situation by signing former Cowboys DE Greg Ellis and trading for Patriots DE Richard Seymour. It hasn’t worked. Which is a shame because Oakland has a very good secondary lead by the best CB in the NFL, Nnamdi Asomugha.

Of course, I fully expect Bruce Arians to call about 35-40 passes, including about a half dozen 40 yard bombs to Mike Wallace.

The beleaguered Steeler defense will face a Raiders team averaging just 11 points per game. Former #1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell has shown himself to be a complete bust so the team has turned signal calling duties over to Pittsburgh native Bruce Gradkowski. Their offense has looked a bit better with a semi-competent QB out there but I can’t imagine even our horrendous secondary losing that much sleep over it. They do have some promising targets in the receiving corps with TE Zach Miller slowly emerging as a top pass catcher and uber-speedy WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (last year’s seventh overall pick) could be a potential gamebreaker.

Troy Polmalu will miss his third consecutive game. Tomlinus Maximus claims Troy is “about a week away” from returning but with our next game only four days away against the lowly Cleveland Browns, I imagine the Steelers would be best served to sit him down until the December 20th game against Green Bay where he’ll definitely be needed. Travis Kirschke, who came back from a torn calf last week, hasn’t practiced and is probably out this week. Watching the Ravens gash us at times, I kinda figured Kirschke came back too soon. No matter, Nick Eason has been playing well in his place. As long as our secondary can hold it together, the Raiders won’t do much to bump up that scoring average this week.

Finally, in our weekly As The Special Teams Turn segment, Corey Ivy was released to make room for the return of special teams ace Anthony Madison. When I say “ace,” I can actually verify that he’s a good special teams player. As opposed to, say, Donovan Woods, who is lucky NFL players can’t be sued for false advertising. Madison is the prototypical gunner, a guy who runs down the field like a heat seeking missile going after the ball carrier. Madison was fantastic for the Steelers last season but got released during the preseason. I’d like to criticize Tomlinus for doing that but at the time it made sense. Madison played poorly at CB while free agent Keiwan Ratliff and a pair of rookie draft picks all showed great potential. Of course, once the actual season started we saw Ratliff was useless and I guess the rooks aren’t ready to come out of the oven or something.  At this stage, I’d rather tighten up the atrocious special teams and just take my chances when it comes to playing a nickel or dime DB.

I’d like to be all smug and self-assured about this game because, c’mon, it’s the Raiders. However, I did that when we played horrid Kansas City and we all know how that turned out. At this stage, I’m not taking any game lightly.  Hopefully the Pittsburgh Steelers won’t either.

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  • JLAW

    Ha that opening speech got me jacked! Very good play on words. I agree sit Troy til GB cause Rodgers is far more dangerous than anyone in the next two weeks. He has put up some decent numbers this year. Should be two easy ones for us to get our chins back up and keep the momentum to reclaim the wildcard seed.

  • “O”

    I just hope these next two games we don’t play at the level of the Raiders or Brownies. Seems we always play to the level of the horrid teams instead of punishing them. I also agree about Troy. Let him heal until we do really need him. But I also thought the same thing about Kansas City. We do still have a chance at the Wild card. Our schedule helps our chances. But even if we don’t there is always next year.

  • JD

    You called down the thunder and you got it, so run you cur, RUN and tell all the other curs….you tell em the Steelers are comin….you tell em I’M comin’ and HELL’S COMIN’ WITH ME!!!

    Got to love movie references.

    Actually got pretty fired up after hearing Tomlin…just hope they follow through.

  • chris

    JLaw, Aaron Rodgers only had decent numbers because his line has been a mess most of the year (although they’ve gotten it together lately). If the could protect him, he’d easily have Brees/Manning type numbers. I’m really afraid what he’ll do to our lousy secondary if we don’t have Troy back there.

    But that’s something to worry about another day.

  • chris

    O, it’s funny but I did a radio show a few weeks back and they asked me why the Steelers barely squeaked by teams like the Lions. I said because we played to the level of our opponents. Nice to see I’m not the only one who noticed that disturbing trend.

    As for the Wild Card, don’t get me wrong, I hope we make the playoffs but honestly I won’t lose any sleep if we don’t. Simply, I don’t think this is a championship level team so what’s the point of being one-and-done? Part of me wouldn’t mind missing the playoffs so we’d get a better draft pick. After all, when we had two bad seasons earlier this decade, we ended up picking Ben and Troy. Sometimes it all works out for the best.

  • Raiders757

    @ JD

    Have you ever taken the time to think that maybe those “terrible” teams are playing up to the Steelers level? This reminds of the Eagles fans, claiming that their team played to the Raiders level as an excuse to make themselves feel better. Yet, it was the Raiders who bitched slapped the Eagles in the mouth, and raised their game to kick their ass. Don’t even try to make such a claim if your Steelers lose to the Raiders tomorrow.

    Personally, I think the Steelers are going to kick the shit out of my Raiders. If, per-chance, the Raiders defy those the odds, it won’t be because the Steelers played down to anyone’s level but their own.

  • HolyPioli

    So if the Stealers lose to the worst of the AFC west, what does that make the Stealers?

  • “O”

    An injured defending superbowl champion with a better record than the Raiders. Don’t get yourself crossed the Raiders still suck and will suck for a long time to come. This is just one season and we are still at .500.

  • chris

    I would say that makes the Steelers the defending Super Bowl champions. Six time Super Bowl champions. When your team hasn’t won anything since 1967, you really aren’t in position to smack talk anybody, Pioli. Not that I expect you’re intelligent enough to grasp this.

    However, O, I have to caution you about the “injured” stuff. All teams have injuries and making excuses is just sad. We have to just swallow our pride and admit we suck this year. I’ll have more to say later in my recap…

  • JD

    So much for unleashing hell…Hell is fire, brimstone, and pitchforks with pain and suffering for an eternity. Steelers brought a bic lighter and some plastic forks and the only thing that stunk was the offense for 3 quarters and the defense in the 4th.

    Haven’t seen the highlights yet, but saw the scoring summary. Sounds like total meltdown in the secondary??? High draft pick anyone?

    Now that I got that off my chest…Go Steelers!

  • JLAW

    I’m right there with ya JD. Now all we can do is ruin it for the rats and the fish. If we can’t finish on top let’s take a few down with us. Talk to ya all tomorrow