Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers Must Avoid letdown against Oakland


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the 1970′s the Pittsburgh Steelers- Oakland Raiders rivalry was one of, if not the best in the NFL. Three straight times (’74,’75,’76) the two teams met in the AFC Championship and the framework of the Steelers dynasty was born against the Raiders in the 1972 AFC Divisional playoff with Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception”.

However, as both dynasties collapsed in the late 80′s and were (at least for the Steelers) re-born in the early 90′s the rivalry cooled off. And while today a Steelers-Raiders game doesn’t hold the same luster as it did in the 70′s, the Raiders have had the Steelers number in recent years, even helping keep the black and gold out of the playoffs last year by beating Pittsburgh.

Most Steeler fans have to be encouraged by what they’ve seen the last two weeks :some semblance of a running game, forcing turnovers and sacks, and some imagination on offense. Yes a win over the sputtering Ravens was nice, as was shutting Rex Ryan up for a week, but the Steelers cannot afford to look past the seemingly lifeless Raiders.

Aside from QB Terrelle Pryor, the Raiders don’t have much going for them on offense. Running back Darren McFadden is hurt as usual, and they really don’t have a receiver that scares anyone. WR Denarius Moore is a decent threat but there is little else to worry a defense. Pryor’s size and athleticism can extend plays the same way Ben Roethlisberger can, but Ben has far superior weapons to throw to. The Raiders defense has been able to get to opposing quaterbacks sixteen times, so pass protection should be, as usual,  some concern to Mike Tomlin. However, much like the Steelers, the Raiders don’t generate many turnovers defensively, so if Big Ben can take care of the ball and not make foolish mistakes, the offense can move against the silver and black.

So then why worry? Simple, the Raiders over the last two meetings have beaten the Steelers and with the playoffs still a possibility, a loss to an inferior opponent would all but kill Pittsburgh’s post season opportunity. With games against the Bengals, Packers, Patriots and Ravens still looming, Pittsburgh can ill afford to fall into a trap game like Oakland. The Steelers must not play down to the level of their opponent Sunday, they must show the same fire and moxie they displayed the last two weeks. Le’veon Bell must continue to produce on the ground and while Raider CBs Charles Woodson and DJ Hayden have been decent, TE Heath Miller should find good living down the seam of the Oakland defense. Offensively, the Raiders offensive line is nearly as porous as Pittsburgh’s, yielding 27 sacks in just six game and despite being devoid of playmakers, the Raider offense does generate  nearly 320 yards of offense  while surrendering only 20 yards more per game.

Normally one would not classify a game against a 2-4 team as a must win, but it is. The NFL is a very mediocre league right now ( I mean Kansas City is 7-0??), so there is room to move up in the playoff picture. Originally when I took a game by game look at the regular season schedule I gave the Steelers a loss against the Raiders. However, I do like the way Pittsburgh is playing so I’m inclined to think they will pull this one out, but if they are, they need to score more TDs than merely relying on Shaun Suisam to pull their fat out of the fire. If I was to pick a score for this one, I see it as a 20-14 Steelers win.

 

SOME OTHER STEELERS THOUGHTS

Don’t look now but Mike Tomlin is slowly morphing into Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin rolled into one. Has anyone taken the fun out of football more than sour Mike? Alright, I get the no flipping into the end zone thing (it is pretty stupid when pro athletes do it), but he barely cracked a smile when the Steelers pulled out the win Sunday. His press conferences are nothing short of painful as well as being a good sleep inducer. Jeez, Mike I know the heat was on you  a little but lighten up. What’s next , are you going to break out the hoodies and headbands like Belichick?

While I had high hopes for Markus Wheaton this season, his injury has opened up an opportunity for Derek Moye to shine. Moye is still a little raw, but his size has made him an attractive target for Roethlisberger and he displayed nice toughness with his catch over the middle last week while being dumped on the back of his neck. A quartet of Brown-Sanders-Cotchery-Moye gives the team good depth and can exploit a weak secondary if used well. Factor in Heath Miller and suddenly, the Steelers have a pretty legit passing attack.

Is that Cam Heyward actually contributing on defense??? If you’ve read my posts in the past, you know I don’t think much of Heyward or Ziggy Hood up until this point. However, if I had to pick one to keep, I’d pick ‘Ironhead’s’ son right now, he’s outplaying Hood and generating some decent push off the edge.

The revolving door at the corner position opposite Ike Taylor needs to be addressed somehow. Is it Cortez Allen or William Gay or someone else? Regardless, cornerback should be a high priority this off season either via free agency (yeah right) or through the draft. I’ve seen some early mock drafts for 2014 and OLB Khalil Mack of Buffalo has been one of the names attached to Pittsbugh (so has UCLA QB Brett Hundley). Tackle, cornerback and defensive line should be the top three priorities because it’s clear the answers aren’t within the team. All other needs take a back seat to those three problem spots.

Want to solve the Mike Adams issue?? Cut him. Plain and simple.

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  • Chris Schroeder

    Here’s the threats on offense the Steelers will have to worry about from the Raiders. Terrell Pryor (duel threat), then you have Darren McFadden which by the way is not injured, and Rashad Jennings. The Raiders at all times will have two running backs in the backfield with Pryor as a threat to burn just about any defense. The Raiders currently have the best fullback in the game in Marcel Reece. They also have aside from Denarious Moore, they have Rod Streeter, Brice Butler, tight end Michael Rivera, as well as two other big physical sure handed tight ends. McFadden was hampered by a hamstring but now is nearly 100% healthy and will look to rush for over 100 yards against the Steelers. The Steelers also don’t play in a division where they see dual threat quarterbacks very often so they will not know how to defend against Pryor. I can assure you that. Their defense is 1000 times better than it was last year and their offense has only grazed the surface of their potential. With the offensive line starting to get healthy again and having Steven Wisniewski back at center Pryor will have most of the correct reads and protection that he needs to make big plays like he did in the chargers game. The Steelers historically have never played well on the West Coast and in particular in Oakland. I don’t expect this to be an easy win but this will be an Oakland raider win.

    • scott sinclair

      I’m assuming (which is dangerous) that you are a Raiders fan. First, Reece is not the best FB in football, no disrespect meant, but he’s not. Second the other weapons you mentioned (Streeter, Butler and Rivera) have 2tds among them, so I’m not too worried about them. I think in time Butler is going to be a really good one, he’s just very raw right now, he played a lot of DB at San Diego State and is still learning the WR position. The Raiders defense has given up four more TDs than their offense has scored, so I don’t know about being 1000 times better. I agree and have said the Steelers don’t do well against the Raiders in the last couple of games and they don’t travel to the west coast well. I just think it’s going to be a low scoring, ugly game and I think the Steelers may pull this one out. Could be wrong and it wouldn’t be the first time, but I don’t think the Raiders are as dangerous as you think

      • Chris Schroeder

        Out of the six games the Raiders have played so far four of them have been against returning playoff contending teams and five of those games they were in the game to where they could have very easily won. Now that they are getting into the softer part of their schedule you will see that the “lifeless” Raiders, are not so lifeless, and with their linemen getting healthy on offense we are going to see what this offense is capable of. It’s kind of hard to tell when the players responsible for the reads and protection are all third/fourth/practice squad players. For Pryor to keep us in games with the offensive line that couldn’t even do Peyton Manning justice is just remarkable to his skill set. Also, in my opinion Marcel Reece is the best fullback in the NFL. He is listed as the top five fullback, and a 2012 Pro bowl selection. Just my opinion, biased as it may be :-). The wide receivers and tight end I mentioned are very talented. Keep in mind the Raiders are a run first team so the wide receivers and tight end are only options, and won’t get as many touches as a team who is pass happy, but they are all very capable of making a big play. The season is also only six games in and most of these players are new and still adjusting. The bottom line is once the offensive lineman are all back and healthy we are going to see big things from the Raiders offense. The team as well as raider nation believes Pryor is the quarterback of the future. His work ethic and his abilities are remarkable to say the least. This team will show up on Sunday so the Steelers are going to have their hands full.

        • Milliken Steeler

          Pryor is far from being polished so slow down a bit. The Steelers stopped RG3 dead in his tracks when he was still RG3 and so you can’t discount the ability to deal with a highly athletic QB.

          Pryor is a rookie going against this defense and if you haven’t seen Coach L’s record against ‘rookie” or first time QB’s against his D…you should have a look.

          It’s awesome you have two healthy running backs but…..your O-line is wrecked. If you don’t have a healthy O-line….unless your Adrian Peterson…you are gonna have problems trying to run the football.

          The Steelers are getting better. In just the last two weeks they have gotten back into the top ten in defense and are improving. They beat the Jets who in turn slapped Tom Terrific last week and now the World champs.

          Nothing is guaranteed but…….if the line keeps improving and Bell keeps getting better and better who knows.

          Also Shamarko, Williams and Jones are getting better on D and its starting to show in their play. Keep an eye on the built like a brick wall Shamarko Thomas…..he is just like having another linebacker when he plays close to the line of scrimmage which he has been doing a lot.

          • Chris Schroeder

            To your point about the run game. The Raiders are ranked 9th in rushing, and that’s only because they played K.C. In K.C. Before that game they were ranked 6th.

            Even with a beat up O-line, and playing against good defenses they still manage a 9 spot. Stephen Wisneski will be out there this Sunday. If he was in there during the Kansas City game it probably would’ve been a different story, Pryor was only sacked 10 times in that game and forced interceptions because the reads and protection wasn’t there for him. That won’t be the case on Sunday. The Raiders will be playing the Steelers like they played the Chargers. If you saw that game you might worried. If you’re talking about Pryor being unpolished say last year or earlier this year you would be right. But he is setting the stage this season. His decision-making, accuracy, everything is miles ahead of where he was at the beginning of the year, and the scary part is, he’s only getting better. “Polished” is so subjective. Maybe he is maybe he isn’t, but if he isn’t then that’s even better, cause there is only room to grow. Can’t wait till Sunday. Should be a good game.

          • Craig

            Playing against good defenses and still ranked 9th?
            Colts – 27th in rush defense
            Jags – 32nd in rush defense
            Broncos – 1st (but only because recently has really skewed the rank)
            Skins – 29th in rush defense
            Chargers – 17th in rush defense

            My my yes those are some stout run defenses for the Raiders to be racking up the yards. 4 of 5 ranked worse than 15th in the league is not facing good run defenses.

          • Chris Schroeder

            So 3 of six teams they faced have a good rush defense. Broncos and Chiefs amongst the top and Chargers at 17th isn’t bad, that’s almost middle of the pack. That’s 50% of the teams they played! and being 9th having faces 33% of the top run defenses in the league, and you think you have baring for a sarcastic comment about the Raiders run game. Does that about sum it up or did I miss something?

          • scott sinclair

            Umm. fact check here.The Jags give up the most rushing yards per game. skins 4th most, colts 6th most, chargers 16th most,chiefs 13th most, out of 32 teams. That means that 5 of the 6 teams the Raiders played rank in the top 50% of giving up the most rushing yards, not sure what stats you were looking at. Basically, they fare well against weak rush defensive teams. The broncos are the only top rushing defense they have played and they only gained 49yards on the day against Denver, 36 of them by Pryor. So yes, they are ranked 9th in the NFL but they only played 1 stout run defensive team and gained a whopping 49 yards. Does that sum it up?

          • Chris Schroeder

            Ok… Stat master. All meaningless to be honest. Darren McFadden has been hampered by hamstring injury for the last couple of games and the offensive line is hardly creating running lanes for anybody. So… despite all of these stats, being 9th considering the circumstances is an illustrious achievement. Believe me! We are only six games in. I’m not ready to crown anybody king just yet. Let’s see how the season plays out and if McFadden stays healthy and the offensive line gets healthy, and back on the field then the sky is the limit for the Oakland Raiders.

          • scott sinclair

            Setting the stage? Pryor has the same number of pass tds as he does INTs (5). what stage is that setting? Only sacked 10 times???? On what planet is that even remotely a good stat????

          • Chris Schroeder

            Never said anything about 10 sacks being a good stat so I don’t know where you got that from. In fact, I didn’t even mention his stats at all. I simply pointed out the makeshift offensive line as being a big part of the reason for Pryors lack of success at times but I also illustrated how remarkably talented he is with his playmaking abilities and once the offensive line gets healthy he will be explosive. I believe when I said “setting the stage” that was exactly what I meant it as. He is…. setting the stage without question. “Setting the stage” simply put means that he is now the leader of the team that once the flaws are corrected he can lead them with his abilities to greatness. When he is scrambling for his life most of the time with only six career starts he is bound to throw interceptions because he is not getting the reads and protection afforded to him. I believe I already talked about that. Hum…. Sigh!!! Yawn!!!

  • Chris Schroeder

    It’s all good Scott. It was a good game. Just as I thought, The Raiders would gift wrap a lot of charity points to the Steelers in the second half while being conservative. The outcome was inevitable. Pryor burning the Steelers for a 93 yard TD run was just a sample size of what that dude can do. Have a great rest of the season, see you next time :-)

    • scott sinclair

      Until the silver and black and black and gold meet again!

      let’s hope it’s in the playoffs someday, it’d be a fun renewal to the rivalry.
      good luck rest of the way!