How Can Oakland Raiders Shut Down the Pittsburgh Steelers' Passing Attack?
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The Reggie McKenzie-Dennis Allen era could not have gotten off to a more disappointing start after two weeks than it has in Oakland.
After failing to take advantage of a very winnable game against the San Diego Chargers in Week 1, the Raiders had a defensive debacle against a rebuilding Miami Dolphins offense that scored 35 points against the silver and black.
They shut down an anemic, Ryan Matthews-less Chargers running game, but the Raiders let Reggie Bush run all over them for 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns one week later.
In Week 3, Oakland will face the always-dangerous Pittsburgh Steelers in a critical matchup that could make or break the Raiders' season. Yes, even in Week 3.
Oakland faces some great running backs as the season unwinds including Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jamal Charles, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and the up-and-coming Trent Richardson.
Luckily for the Raiders, they have the eighth-best passing defense in the league. They held Philip Rivers to only 226 yards, and must keep Ben Roethlisberger in check if they want to get their first win of the season against the Steelers.
The Raiders' pass defense has been the bright spot so far, and must play even better in order to prevent the Steelers from taking one away in Oakland.
Prevent the Big Pass
Oakland did a solid job shutting down Philip Rivers on Monday night in Week 1. Rivers only threw for 226 yards, but 46 of them came on a deep bomb to Robert Meachem. Without that big play, the Raiders would have held San Diego to a mere 180 yards through the air.
The deep pass to Meachem helped the Chargers extend the field and put points on the board when the Raiders had momentum on their side.
The Steelers feature a couple of home run-hitting receivers in Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. Last time Oakland faced Pittsburgh, Wallace had 116 yards and a touchdown on only three catches.
Wallace averaged at least 15 yards per catch in seven games last season, and Brown's had at least one grab of 25-plus yards in each of Pittsburgh's first two games this season. Giving up the big pass is not only a momentum killer, it sucks the life right out of the defense.
Take Advantage of Pittsburgh's Weak Offensive Line
Ben Roethlisberger has always had to use his big frame to elude pass rushers to the best of his ability. Nothing has changed in 2012, except that he's had to do it more than he's used to.
Roethlisberger has already been sacked eight times in two games. With a struggling offensive line trying to protect him, Roethlisberger will be fully aware of the Oakland defensive line coming after him all game.
The Raiders only have two sacks this season, and neither of them have been by Richard Seymour or Tommy Kelly. The two strongest linemen on the Raiders' front four have to make their presence known in this game.
Is this the week Oakland gets its first win of the season?
Kelly has been vocal ever since the preseason began. Perhaps this is the week he finally gets that first sack out of the way.
Generate a Turnover
Along with the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland is the only team in the NFL without a takeaway. After a forgettable week against the Dolphins, where they gave up 452 yards of offense, the Raiders must do something to keep the crowd in the game if they fall behind early.
Whether it's a forced fumble after a big hit on Roethlisberger's blind side, or jumping a route to intercept a pass, the Raiders will be looking for that first turnover to spark the defense that is more than capable of slowing down Pittsburgh's passing attack.
All it takes is getting that first turnover out of the way to jumpstart a team.
Granted, the Raiders were hoping they would get it before Week 3—but it's better late than never.
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