The Oakland Raiders head back out on the road to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers after back-to-back dominating wins over the Chargers and Jets.
The Steelers pose another tough AFC matchup for the Raiders who are coming off of a tough loss to the Cincinnati Bengals where they saw the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but the loss of another star. Star running back Le’veon Bell left the game with an MCL injury and has been placed on IR, ending his season.
The loss of Bell is tough for the Steelers, but will make things a little easier for the Raiders front seven and their defense. Instead, the Raiders will look to slow down backup running back DeAngelo Williams who filled in for Bell during the first two weeks when he was serving a suspension. Williams carried the ball 41 times during those two weeks, rushing for a total of 204 yards and three touchdowns. He is averaging 4.9 yards per carry this season.
Big defensive tackle Dan Williams and the Raiders defense have done a stellar job this season in stopping the run, ranking second in the NFL by allowing just 82.9 rushing yards per game. Stopping Williams and the Steelers rushing attack will help in slowing down the run as Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith will be able to focus on the pass-rush.
The Steelers offense struggled with Roethlisberger on the sideline, but now he is back but with limited mobility due to a brace on his knee. He did complete 62 percent of his passes last week, but threw three interceptions and just one touchdown. His limited mobility will make things easier on the Raiders, but the secondary must find a way to slow down Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Brown is a speedy receiver that is quick out of his breaks very much like Raiders rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper. Brown has already totaled 52 receptions for 718 yards and three touchdowns.
The Raiders struggles in defending the tight end has been well documented and the Steelers have one of the best veteran tight ends in Heath Miller. Miller proved to be a crucial safety net for Big Ben last week, hauling over 100 yards against the Bengals.
While the Steelers don’t possess the same daunting defense you may be used to seeing come out of Pittsburgh, they are still very stout against the run. They are allowing just 97.0 yards per game on the ground, 8th best in the NFL. It’s another tough matchup for Latavius Murray, who is coming off of a solid start against the best rush-defense, going for 113 rushing yards on just 20 carries.
The Steelers are less impressive in defending the pass, where they are 26th against the pass (269.5 yards per game). It could be another big game for Derek Carr and his wide receivers, Michael Crabtree and rookie standout Amari Cooper.
Instead, the Steelers defense relies on takeaways and a solid pass rush. The Steelers have notched 22 sacks on this season, being led by rookie first-round pick DE Bud Dupree, who has four on the season.
The Steelers have been very effective in forcing turnovers, producing seven interceptions and four fumble recoveries. Former Raider safety Mike Mitchell is tied for the team-lead with two interceptions.
Carr and the Raiders offense must protect the ball as they’ve been doing for much of the season, making sure to not give Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense extra possessions.
The Raiders will return home next week to host the Minnesota Vikings, who are also proving to be a force in the NFL with their own young quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.