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Steelers vs. Raiders: DeMarcus Van Dyke Adds Subplot to Week 3 Matchup

The Steelers DeMarcus Van Dyke returns to his old stomping rounds Sunday.
The Steelers DeMarcus Van Dyke returns to his old stomping rounds Sunday.Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
Mike BatistaContributor ISeptember 20, 2012

When the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Oakland Raiders, there's never a shortage of subplots.

The Immaculate Reception forever linked these storied franchises four decades ago. Just as that play earned its immortal nickname, the intrigue this time is provided by a player who could earn a nickname for his work on special teams.

How about DVD? 

Steelers cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke will face his old team Sunday in Oakland.

When the Steelers acquired Van Dyke days before the season opener, it was a "yeah, whatever" kind of move. The Raiders cut him, and how could a Raiders reject possibly help the Steelers?

So far, Van Dyke has helped the Steelers by pulling off a special teams trifecta in two games.

Note: All screenshots are courtesy of NFL Game Rewind.

In Denver, Van Dyke downed a Drew Butler punt at the Broncos' one-yard line. The Broncos never got past their own 22 on that drive and punted.

On Sunday, the Steelers might not have taken the lead when they did without Van Dyke's special teams work. The Jets Isaiah Trufant was trying to down a Robert Malone punt deep in Steelers territory, but Van Dyke pushed him into the end zone to help force the touchback.

Starting from the 20-yard line instead of the one-yard line, the Steelers drove 11 plays for a touchdown and a 13-10 lead in the second quarter. They never looked back from there.

In the third quarter, Van Dyke was a 187-pound bullet as he closed in on Jeremy Kerley trying to field a Butler punt. Kerley muffed the kick, and Ryan Mundy recovered.

The Raiders drafted Van Dyke in the third round of the 2011 draft, before the Steelers chose cornerbacks Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen.

Van Dyke earned the hollow honor of fastest man at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds, according to Pro Football Talk

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday in his weekly press conference via Steelers.com that the Steelers had their eye on Van Dyke before the draft.

"We thought he was a long, fast kid with man-coverage ability."

Van Dyke played in 14 games for the Raiders last season, starting four of them. He had one interception (one more than both Allen and Brown) and four passes defensed (three more than Allen in his career), according to NFL.com.

However, the University of Miami product was part of a unit that allowed 251.4 passing yards per game last season, according to NFL.com, 27th in the NFL.

Whatever Van Dyke's shortcomings are in pass coverage, the Raiders might wish they had him back on Sunday. They could be without starting cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer and are working out safety Michael Huff at cornerback, according to the Contra Costa Times.

The Raiders' starting cornerbacks figure to be Pat Lee, who has two career starts, and Joselio Hanson, an eighth-year veteran who hasn't started more than six games in a season.

If Ben Roethlisberger can exploit the Raiders' patchwork secondary, Van Dyke might not get on the field as much as he has been, because the Steelers won't need to do much punting.

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