By Danny Cox
The Oakland Raiders came out in the season opener and were not far from tying up the game with the San Diego Chargers and sending it to overtime. Week 2 saw them not even appear to show up in a thrashing at Miami. Perhaps a Pittsburgh Steelers team riddled with injuries is just what they were looking for.
Well, even if all the Raiders aren’t thrilled, Carson Palmer is certainly overjoyed. No one likes anyone to be injured, but not having to face off with Troy Polamalu and James Harrison is a blessing for any quarterback.
Pittsburgh still has a lot to offer, and they showed it by rebounding against the New York Jets to even their record at 1-1 after a big opening loss to Denver.
These two teams are no stranger to one another, and it really is up in there air as to who may end up the victor. Since 2000, the teams have had seven contests against one another with the Steelers taking four of them and the Raiders snagging victories in the other three.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, the last meeting was a 35-3 shellacking back in 2010.
Pittsburgh is not a team that has the most prolific offense in the world, but they usually do enough to get by thanks to the arm of Ben Roethlisberger. His skills are needed even more this season as injuries to the running backs have decimated their ground game.
Big Ben has already thrown for 520 yards with Antonio Brown being his primary target. Brown has brought in 11 passes in the first two games for 153 yards, but that isn’t the big scoring threat. That title belongs to Mike Wallace, who has two of Roethlisberger’s four touchdown throws so far this season.
The defense of the Steelers is what could make or break this game for the Raiders. Always strong, Pittsburgh has the fifth overall passing defense and eleventh overall rushing defense. Injuries to Polamalu and Harrison are keeping those rankings from being much higher though, and the Raiders need to find ways to expose these weaknesses.
Oakland will find that difficult as well, considering they are averaging a paltry 34 yards per game on the ground. Luckily though, the Raiders defense is prepared for Roethlisberger with a very good passing defense and a lousy rushing defense.
As stated before though, Pittsburgh can’t run the ball either so it all kind of works out.
Pittsburgh has a bye coming up in Week 4 and they truly are going to need it in order to get players like Harrison and Polamalu back. Running back Rashard Mendenhall may play this week, but he’s still not near 100 percent either and needs the extra recovery time so that the Steelers can have some semblance of a running attack later in the season.
One thing that Palmer does not need to do is think that the secondary of the Steelers is weakened with Polamalu out. Safety Ryan Clark is not only an adequate replacement, but has flourished in the absence of the big-haired defensive leader.
As problematic as things may seem for the Steelers right now, they got on a roll against the Jets this past week and looked very good. Oakland went from being decent to absolutely horrible and they can’t afford another performance like that this week when Pittsburgh comes to town.
The Steelers want to go into the bye week with a winning streak. Oakland desperately needs to take advantage of a limping Pittsburgh team. If both teams play to their strengths though, it’s going to take everything that the Raiders have to pull out the victory.
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Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. His work can be found on Examiner.com.