The Steelers come into Week 3 in a three-way tie atop the AFC North, but still have a myriad of concerns offensively in need of correction.
Oakland, on the other hand, simply needs a win. The Raiders are one of just six 0-2 teams in the NFL after Week 2 and already face an uphill battle in the AFC West.
With both teams desperately vying for a victory, this has all the makings of a great game. For that reason, here's a look at everything you need to know about Sunday's game.
Where: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA
When: Sunday, Sept. 23 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Live Streaming: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Line: Steelers (-4.5), according to Bovada.
Over/Under: 44.5, according to Bovada.
What's At Stake?
With an NFL-record 20 teams coming into Week 3 at 1-1, there is almost no team whose playoff hopes are hanging on for dear life.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, they are one of those teams. Already behind the San Diego Chargers by two games in the AFC West, Oakland can ill-afford to start the season 0-3.
The last team to make the playoffs after an 0-3 start was the 1998 Buffalo Bills. Considering this is a division where Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers line up behind center every week, it would almost be impossible for the Raiders to make the playoffs with a loss on Sunday.
For Pittsburgh, last week's victory over the Jets was much-needed, but did not answer any of the questions facing the team. Both the offensive line and running game continued to struggle throughout last week.
The Steelers come in as favorites and should win this road tilt. Nonetheless, it won't be an easy time.
OT Marcus Gilbert, Knee, Probable
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Toe, Questionable
TE Heath Miller, Ribs, Probable
RB Rashard Mendenhall, Knee, Questionable
LB James Harrison, Knee, Doubtful
LB Stevenson Sylvester, Knee, Questionable
S Troy Polamalu, Calf, Doubtful
K Sebastian Janikowski, Hamstring, Probable
RB Taiwan Jones, Ribs, Probable
CB Shawntae Spencer, Foot, Questionable
Fantasy Player to Watch: RB Darren McFadden
McFadden's duality between being brilliant and oft-injured has garnered him the reputation as a must-start as long as he's healthy.
That reputation has not benefited fantasy football owners thus far in 2012. With just 54 yards on 26 carries, McFadden is averaging just 2.1 yards per carry through two games this season. His 105 receiving yards on 15 receptions have helped mitigate McFadden's lack of effectiveness somewhat, but not enough.
And while part of that can be chalked up to facing two tough defenses, it's not like the Steelers are a slouch.
Unfortunately for McFadden owners, he's essentially an every-week start. With the 26-year-old unlikely to have a breakout game on Sunday, owners should pray for a touchdown run against Pittsburgh.
What They're Saying
The biggest story for the Steelers heading into Sunday's contest is obviously the team's struggles on the ground.
Through two games, Pittsburgh is averaging just 2.6 yards per carry and seemingly miss Mendenhall more on every snap.
When asked about the state of his incumbent starter, head coach Mike Tomlin seemed to think his progress was going well. He even hinted at some actual football activity for Mendenhall, who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered at the end of last season.
Via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Maybe we will bump him around a little more in practice this week. He has done a nice job of running and cutting at full speed. Now, let's see if he can play a little football. We will thud him up a little bit on a day we are allowed to carry our pads and see if he can respond positively to it.
Not to be outdone, Oakland is having plenty of offensive problems as well. Through two games, the Raiders are 31st in the NFL with just 27 points scored for the season.
However, head coach Dennis Allen did not seem concerned in his weekly press conference on Monday.
Here is what the rookie coach said when asked about the team's offensive changes, particularly the zone-blocking scheme, this season.
Per the Raiders' official website:
I believe it is a matter of time for it to get going. Part of the decision was I’ve seen this system of offense work and be very successful. I believe in this. As a defensive coach, I spent a lot of time defending different offenses and I think this is one of the more difficult offenses to have to defend. Obviously, we have to execute it better because we’re not getting the results in the running game that we’re looking for.
Steelers Key Player: QB Ben Roethlisberger
Until the team's running game is fixed, Pittsburgh will continue to rely on its star signal-caller to find a way to win.
Last week that plan went swimmingly, as Roethlisberger was brilliant en route to victory. The 30-year-old completed 24-of-31 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns while not turning the ball over.
Most importantly, he stood in the pocket in the face of immense pressure and threw clean, accurate passes that put his receivers in a position to make plays. Those who have followed Roethlisberger's career know this is nothing new.
The Steelers' offensive line has been a questionable unit multiple times throughout the nine-year veteran's career, and Roethlisberger has almost always come through for his team.
Nonetheless, without a running game, the onus is far more on Big Ben than ever before.
Raiders Key Player: QB Carson Palmer
While Palmer has infinitely more talent at the running back spot than Roethlisberger, the opposing quarterbacks have been in similar situations thus far in 2012.
Oakland's struggles in the running game have forced Palmer to pass the ball 94 times in two games, a figure that puts him behind only Drew Brees' 101 attempts for the most in the NFL.
Luckily for Oakland, the signal-caller has been far more adept at avoiding turnovers than he was last season. After throwing an interception every 20.5 throws in 2011, Palmer has thrown just one so far against two tough defenses.
If the Raiders have any hope of winning this game, they will need another spotless performance on Sunday. The Steelers thrive on creating points off turnovers, and with Oakland struggling to score this season, every change on the scoreboard will have a magnified impact.
Though the Raiders are a team that should compete for a playoff spot on paper, they simply haven't shown that level of play thus far.
Despite their flaws, the Steelers have more downfield explosion and showed last week they could play without James Harrison and Troy Polamalu.
Look for a competitive game, but one Pittsburgh ultimately wins with relative ease.
Score Prediction: Steelers 24, Raiders 17
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!