Oakland Raiders: 5 Most Critical Matchups Against the Pittsburgh Steelers

Jeff SpiegelContributor IISeptember 19, 2012

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

For the Oakland Raiders and their fans, it's safe to say that Sunday's matchup with the Steelers can't come soon enough.

Left with the bitter taste of being upset by the Dolphins on Sunday, Oakland returns to action this weekend to face a 1-1 Steelers team that has played Jekyll and Hyde thus far this season.

For the Raiders to reclaim their winning ways and move to 1-2 on the season, there are five key matchups that Oakland needs to focus on.


1) Oakland Offensive Line vs. Pittsburgh Defensive Line

While most games in the league would list this as a key matchup, no team in the NFL needs better offensive line play more than Oakland.

The Raiders are coming off a week in which they ran for just 23 yards on 14 carries—and that's with one of the best running backs in the league.

Unfortunately, those blocking woes also extended to the passing game. While quarterback Carson Palmer was able to avoid being sacked, he was knocked down nine times on Sunday, leaving him little opportunity to get comfortable.

Opposite Oakland's line this week is a Pittsburgh unit that has already logged four sacks this season and have hit the quarterback an additional five times. Despite the absence of James Harrison, the Steelers are stacked with guys like LaMarr Woodley, Larry Foote, Casey Hampton and a slew of other pass-rushers who are licking their chops.

If the Oakland line can open up some running lanes and give Carson Palmer a bit more time to throw the ball, the Raiders could surprise some people this week.


2) Oakland Corners vs. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown

Now without their top two cornerbacks, the Oakland Raiders are relying on a number of castoffs and no-names in hopes of hiding this glaring weakness.

Against guys like Wallace and Brown, however, that definitely won't be easy.

If the Oakland defensive line can't get any pressure this week, leaving these corners on an island, it's going to be a long, long week for the Raider defense.


3) Ben Roethlisberger vs. Richard Seymour

Last time these two guys got together, Seymour tried to knock Big Ben out of the game. The only problem? He used his fist.

Both guys haven't made a big deal out of the event leading up to the weekend, but the first time these two go nose to nose in the backfield should make for some exciting drama.

Then again, Seymour needs to get into the backfield first.


4) Steelers' Rushing Attack vs. Oakland Defense

After holding the Chargers to just 32 rushing yards on 20 attempts in Week 1, the Oakland run defense simply fell apart in Week 2.

Many will blame the short week or the heat and humidity, but allowing 263 rushing yards to the Miami Dolphins is unacceptable, regardless of the circumstances.

The bad news for Oakland fans is that the Steeler backfield of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer might be bolstered by the return of Rashard Mendenhall this week, something that definitely won't come as music to the ears of Dennis Allen.

That said, this Oakland group has all of the talent needed to create a brick wall for opposing running backs with Seymour, Tommy Kelly and Rolando McClain up the middle. Whether they put that talent to use, however, is another story.


5) Carson Palmer vs. Dick Labeau

After scheming against Carson Palmer twice a year for seven years while he was a Bengal, you'd think LaBeau would have this guy figured out. Then again, the same could be said about Palmer as well.

With an entirely different offense than the one he ran in Cincinnati this time around, I think the advantage lies with Palmer in knowing Labeau's scheme fairly well.

If Oakland is going to win this game, Palmer is going to need to find some holes in the defense for some big plays. As Raider fans will tell you, however, that isn't something that has happened thus far this season.