Just like the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Oakland Raiders have dealt with injury and inconsistency issues along their makeshift offensive line this fall.
Oakland’s Offensive Line Issues
Oakland lost their best offensive lineman, left tackle Jared Veldheer, to a torn triceps in the middle of August. Although Veldheer is expected to return at some point later this season, he will be absent from this weekend’s game against the Steelers.
The early loss of Veldheer forced the Raiders’ coaching staff to shift Khalif Barnes from right tackle to left tackle, and in turn forced the team’s brass to sign Tony Pashos to take Barnes’ place on the right side. Unfortunately for Pashos, he left Oakland’s last game against Kansas City with a groin injury and his status for Sunday’s game is still in doubt.
Rookie second round pick Menelik Watson was supposed to provide some depth at both spots, but the former Florida State Seminole has been sidelined for much of the year due to knee and calf issues. With all of the injury-riddled chaos, even the inexperienced Matt McCants has started and logged snaps at right tackle.
The interior of Oakland’s offensive line has also been an injury-plagued mess too. Starting left guard Lucas Nix, starting center Stefen Wisniewski, and starting right guard Mike Brisiel have all missed significant periods of time this year. Their absences have forced Oakland’s coaching staff to press rookie Lamar Mady and veteran Andre Gurode, who is currently banged-up, into duty as well.
Although their problematic offensive line is not the only reason for their offensive struggles, it is evident that the Raiders have had their fair share of issues when it has come to moving the ball and putting points on the board during their first six games.
Oakland currently ranks 24th in total yards per game (320.8), 29th in total points per game (17.5), and 32nd in passing yards per game (192) The simple fact that they have allowed 27 sacks so far is only the “cherry” on top of their “crap-laden sundae.”
Pittsburgh’s Pass Rushers Must Take Advantage
With their pass protection issues in mind, it will be up to Pittsburgh’s stagnant and inconsistent pass rush to find ways to take advantage of one of Oakland’s biggest weaknesses.
Although they have improved when it has come to the creation of pocket-collapse and sacking opposing signal-callers in recent weeks, the Steelers’ pass-rush has been anything but formidable during their 2-4 start.
To be fair to LaMarr Woodley, especially since I have dogged him so much, he has really been the only consistent pass rushing weapon for Pittsburgh this fall. Woodley has 5.0 of the team’s eight sacks, but Brett Keisel, Jason Worilds, and Ziggy Hood have only notched one apiece to round out the grand total.
Rookie Jarvis Jones provided some excellent pocket-collapse during the Jets game two weeks ago, but he was sidelined last Sunday with a concussion and his presence was sorely missed. The Steelers’ pass-rushers must make life difficult for Terrelle Pryor this weekend, and there is no better way to make an inexperienced quarterback uncomfortable than the presence of heavy pressure from different angles.
Pittsburgh’s defense will be facing an offensive line which makes their own look like “The Hogs,” so this could be the week that they “tee off” and finally begin to find their pocket-collapsing groove. I am sure that the aforementioned thought is not lost on defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, and I hope that the veteran sage can design and devise ways to bring as much heat towards Pryor as possible.
The stage is set for the Steelers’ pass-rushers to have a “field day,” and I for one hope that they can take advantage.
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