If you are the Steelers you have to get a win this week against the Raiders and next week against the Bills to set up a AFC North battle with the Ravens to see who will take sole hold of first place in the division. Furthermore the Steelers need to start winning a few AFC games for that tiebreaker.
Word is that the Steelers should have LT, Kemo and Troy ready for the game and that Keisel is questionable going into the game. I would like to see the Steelers starting to get healthier but the fact of the matter is that two starting offensive lineman are already out for the year so you can't really get much help there.
Jeff Reed is gone which is kind of a big deal pending how you look at it.
Whatev. Let's get after it.
New England 39, Pittsburgh 26
Passing: Roethlisberger: 30/49, 387 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Mendenhall: 11 car, 50 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Wallace: 8 rec, 136 yards, 2 TD
Oakland 23, Kansas City 20 (OT)
Passing: Campbell: 19/33, 229 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Woodhead: 17 car, 89 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Hernandez: 6 rec, 148 yards, 0 TD
Offense (rank in NFL)
Pittsburgh: 313.6 yards/game (24th)
Oakland: 361.0 yards/game (12th)
Pittsburgh: 200.4 yards/game (22nd)
Oakland: 198.8 yards/game (25th)
Pittsburgh: 113.1 yards/game (16th)
Oakland: 162.2 yards/game (2nd)
Pittsburgh: 22.2 points/game (16th)
Oakland: 26.1 points/game (7th)
Pittsburgh: 315.4 yards/game (9th)
Oakland: 309.6 yards/game (6th)
Pittsburgh: 63.2 yards/game (1st)
Oakland: 124.8 yards/game (24th)
Pittsburgh: 252.2 yards/game (26th)
Oakland: 184.8 yards/game (2nd)
Pittsburgh: 18.0 points/game (5th)
Oakland: 20.9 points/game (12th)
The Raiders seeem to be getting better huh?
Lets get into the bulk of the preview.
Look at what we have for a matchup this year. It seems as if the Steelers and Raiders play every year and no matter how bad the Raiders actually are they always take it to the Steelers. The past two meeting between these teams have been less than what the Steelers expected. Both times the Steelers were the reigning Super Bowl champions and the Raiders have been at the bottom of the barrel and both times the Raiders found a way to beat the Steelers. It makes me want to throw up just thinking about it.
This time around the Raiders are actually *gasp* good.
Yes, I swear to God. Look.
Yea, I know, the AFC West is about as solid as toilet water, but I guess you take what you can get. Are the Raiders for real? I mean that is up for speculation but they are playing a whole shit ton better than they have in past year. Darren McFadden is getting the job done and their “quarterbacks” have been making enough plays to get them by.
I always like to scope out different things during the week and two things on ESPN really stood out to me when I was doing some research for the game. The first is that I saw the Steelers were seven point favorites. Now some people are going to think that isn’t much of a spread, it’s only one score, but in the NFL seven points is a pretty big deal. I know the Steelers are home but I thought this might be closer to a four point spread considering the offensive line and injury problems that the Steelers are having. I am a big believer that Vegas knows a lot and they are very good at what they do so this line makes me feel pretty good about the Steelers. Maybe it is just me, but take it for what it is worth. The Steelers opened up as nine point favorites and it moved down to seven which means a good bit but seven is still a pretty solid number.
Speaking on the terms of offensive line this is something that just blew my mind when I was looking at some different things.
I mean how bad can the Raiders offensive line be? It can’t be that bad especially considering that 60% of our starters aren’t play and we have Ramon Foster and Jon Scott play. Are the people at ESPN high or just playing a sick joke to see who notices?
As you can see the Raiders players feel the same way.
Looking at the Raiders a little closer:
The quarterback situation in Oakland is just as up in the air as anything. The Raiders got Jason Campbell from the Redskins before the season and they still have Pennsylvania product Bruce Gradkowski who has played pretty well against the Steelers but neither of their stat line is very appealing.
Not sure what all that really means. I guess it means they rely heavily on their running game, aka Darren McFadden.
McFadden has rushed for over 750 yards this season and has made pay dirt four times. His 5.4 yards per attempt is second in the league and he has eight runs for 20 or more yards. Dude has home run potential so it will be of utmost importance for the Steelers linebackers to shut him down.
The problem with McFadden?
Yes, Mr. McFadden, you are. The Steelers defense doesn’t care.
The offensive line? This is what I got when I typed that in to Google.
Does every team in the NFL have the tight end leading their team in receiving? I mean honest to god. Zach Miller leads the Raiders in receiving with 461 yards on the season. When your quarterbacks are as up and down as the Raiders are, or any quarterback for that matter, your tight end is your best friend.
This may lend itself to the game against the Steelers because that TE will be matched up against the nickel back, namely Will Gay.
Will Gay actually had a really strong start to the season out of the nickel spot but that has been about it. Teams have started to hone in on him and he has been getting beat like the proverbial rented mule.
I think it is time to challenge Will Gay. I am not saying that he isn’t trying or he is just taking it easy but Crez Butler or Keenan Lewis may need to start getting some of that PT where Gay would play. Most of yinz know that I am big on the fact that competition will only make players better and maybe Will just needs to take a step back and reevaluate everything. We are going to need him down the stretch run and heaven forbid if Ike or BMac gets hurt he is going to have to step in so getting someone in there now I think is a good thing. Hell, maybe Lewis or Butler can show us something.
When you are looking at the Raiders defense this is only one guy that really catches my eye that says “do not go near” and that is Nnamdi Asomugha. He is not having a great year as he has zero picks and only 11 tackles on the season but he is a dude you don’t want to mess with. Whatev. Ben is going to make it rain.
In the secondary with Asi is Michael Huff he is the second leading tackler on the team off the safety position. Huff also has zero interceptions. Actually if you look at the entire Raiders line you see that they only have five team interceptions and no player has more than one. You think Ike Taylor is bad?
Tyvon Branch leads the team in tackles. No idea who that even is. He had 124 tackles last season. Whatev.
The linebacking core is pretty decent as they have vet Richard Seymour and young buck Rolando McClain. Seymour has 4.5 sacks which is only a half behind Tommy Kelly and Matt Shaughnessy who have five each. It will be interesting to see how the Raiders attack the offensive line. Kemo is saying he is going to play this week but that means that Jon Scott or R Foster is still going to have to play. The Raiders probably saw how successful it was to bring the house on a lot of plays and I expect a lot of that.
What can the Steelers do to counter this? Run the draw a little bit and get the screen game working. Rashard is a pretty good pass catcher so let the blitz come and let Rashard get into the open field. I mean come on, who doesn’t like to see the spin move? I know I do.
The Steelers will be looking to get back on the run game this week too. They pretty much gave up on it last week because they got behind and because the offensive line was getting blown off the ball. Trying to keep the Raiders honest will be important as Ben has gaudy numbers when he throws off play action. Staying balanced is key in any game but the Steelers need to get back on track after throwing the football 49 times against the Patriots. I am up for Ben slinging the football around, which is how we got to Super Bowl 40, but 49 times is a lot for any quarterback. Rashard has had a really nice year so let him play a little football.
Another stat that I found pretty interesting was something that @DixieNormess brought up on Twitter when I threw out a plug to see what are some things about this game you wanted to hear about. He asked about the penalty situation. An interesting subject and the results I found were even more surprising. The Steelers are, for the most part, a pretty disciplined team. They take penalties, but not a ton of them. Last season the Steelers finished around the middle of the pack with about 48 yards of penalties a game. So far this season the Steelers are the third least penalized team in the NFL in terms of yards with only 43 yards game. They only commit a little over 5 penalties a game, fifth in the league. Not a bad number. Consequently the Raiders are the MOST penalized team in the league with about 88 yards of penalties a game and commit a league worst 10 penalties a game, the only team in double-figures.
What does all this mean? Well the Raiders are basically giving up a whole field, and 10 plays per game. To put it kind of vanilla the Raiders are basically giving up a 10 play, 88 yard drive per game, which most is going to result in a touchdown. The Steelers give up about a 5 play 48 yard drive which will probably lead to a field goal, at best. So at worst this is a +4 scoring differential for the Steelers in the game.
The other issue with this is penalties giving other teams first downs. The Raiders are among the worst in the league with a little over two penalties a game leading to a first down, where the Steelers give up about half a first down per penalty per game. Very good for the Steelers and very bad for the Raiders.
These are the little things that Mike Tomlin always talks about. In a close game four points is going to make the difference in winning and losing. Of course that isn’t really how the penalties work out, but that is a simple way that people can look at it. My description was totally arbitrary but I think you can see where you go. Giving a first down due to a penalty and that can lead to points. The Steelers give up exactly 0.4 first downs by penalty per game, the Raiders 2.2. That will be a big issue. If the Raiders hit their quota of 10/88 then they are going to have a hard time beating the Steelers. Simple as that.
Steelers 27, Raiders 17