*Expect Dick LeBeau to use smoke and mirrors to generate a pass rush on defense. In a "rush by committee" approach, expect nearly every player on defense to get a chance at rushing the QB."> *Expect Dick LeBeau to use smoke and mirrors to generate a pass rush on defense. In a "rush by committee" approach, expect nearly every player on defense to get a chance at rushing the QB.">

Notebook: Raiders are first up

On Sunday, the Steelers begin the 2004 season against the Oakland Raiders at home. <br><br> <b> What to expect</b> <br><br> <font size="4"><b>*</b></font>Expect Dick LeBeau to use smoke and mirrors to generate a pass rush on defense. In a "rush by committee" approach, expect nearly every player on defense to get a chance at rushing the QB.

Troy Polamalu and the defensive ends in particular are likely to be called upon more than usual to pressure the QB. Also expect a good rotation on the defensive line with Keisel, Kirschke and Hoke helping to keep the entire line fresh.

*Expect confusion in the Steelers young secondary to result in an easy score, but also expect Troy Polamalu to make up for it with at least one big play.

*Expect CB Deshea Townsend to come away with an un-Dwayne-Washington-like interception.

*Expect to see lots of Duce Staley early in the game and some of Jerome Bettis late.

*Expect to see Ted Washington (age 36), John Parrella (age 34), and Warren Sapp (age 31) wear down against the run as the game progresses.

*Expect the Tyler Brayton (or even Warren Sapp) v. Oliver Ross match up to play a big part in the game.

*Expect Ricardo Colclough to stop carrying the ball like a loaf of bread – or expect him to contribute a costly fumble.

What to hope for

*Hope to see Antwaan Randle El get a few snaps at QB by choice, not necessity. If the Steelers are to fully utilize the talent available on offense, its time for Randle El to see more touches as either a quarterback or running back out of the backfield. While Randle El's ability to impact a game as a pure receiver is questionable, there is no questioning that Randle El is an electrifying player with the ball in his hands. Antwaan Randle El surrounded by 10 blocking Steelers could produce some big running plays. If the defense counters with 8 players in the box, that would leave a tantalizing mismatch: both Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress in single coverage. And don't worry about Randle El's ability to get the ball downfield. He is the Steelers 3rd best QB with or without Brian St. Pierre on the roster. Remember, Antwaan is the only player in NCAA Division I-A history to reach both 6,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing. He is also the only Division I-A player in history to pass for 40 touchdowns and run for 40 touchdowns, scoring a total of 87 touchdowns in 4 years. How can you bury that type of ability on the sideline?

*Hope that Duce Staley can handle all the carries as a feature back without getting tired and coughing up the football.

*Hope to see the Steelers' younger, faster, and bigger-hitting defense make Rich Gannon (age 38) and Jerry Rice (almost 42) pay with a barrage of punishing hits.

Random Thoughts

The Steelers did well to pick up a 7th round draft pick for Todd Fordham, a player they were about to cut. The Steelers did poorly to turn down the 6th round pick the Dolphins offered for RB Dante Brown, a player they were about to cut.

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