Oakland Raiders: Why They Have a Great Chance To Upset the Pittsburgh Steelers
This is a different Pittsburgh Steeler team that lost five in a row to miss the playoffs last year. This is also a different Oakland Raider team that beat the Steelers for one of their five wins last year.
Never mind last year.
Steeler defense is much better this year as the have Head and Shoulders star Troy Palomalu back. The Raiders are a much improved team overall as they are now in first place in the AFC West.
It's easy to say that "they are the Steelers" and "they are the Raiders" but it isn't that simple. There are reasons why the Raiders won last years game besides the absence of Palomalu.
There are still some match ups the Raiders can take advantage of to win.
Turn the page to see what they are.
The No.1 Run Defense Against The No.2 Run Offense
The Steelers are sure to get a large dose of Darren McFadden in the run game. The Steelers only allow 63 yards per game against the run so it will be strength on strength here.
Wait a minute.
The Steelers are a little weak right now in that area as Steeler defensive end Aaron Smith is out with a torn triceps muscle. Brett Keisel is the Steeler's other defensive and he has a bum hamstring.
It remains to be seen if Keisel will play.
The Patriots were able take advantage of the injuries and run the football Sunday night. The Raiders have been able to run the ball just fine on any top run defense as long as Darren McFadden is playing.
McFadden is healthy and should be in the lineup next Sunday.
Need I say more?
Louis Murphy Is Back!
Word around Raider Nation is that Louis Murphy is back at practice for the Raiders. The Steeler's defensive coaching staff will not forget Murphy's big day that included a 75-yard touchdown catch last year.
That's why I fully expect someone to be over the top to help out with Murphy. Steeler defense's concern with Murphy can and will open things up for other receivers.
It's good for the Raiders to have their main deep threat back for this game.
Zach Miller Is Back!
With Murphy taking coverage with him next Sunday, underneath to intermediate routes should be open for Zach Miller. He should be able to move the chains as he always has and did last year against the Steelers.
The play fakes the Raiders run should help Millers cause in getting open as well. The pass catching running backs the Raiders have will also take attention away from Miller.
The Raiders are just hoping his foot holds up.
Jacoby Ford: Offensive X Factor
Jacoby Ford is a weapon the Raiders revealed to the rest of the league last Sunday against the Chiefs. I will be interesting to see if he starts against the Steelers with Murphy coming back.
I believe he should.
He has already shown much better hands than Darrius Heyward-Bey and he is faster. He is also a better route runner, goes over the middle, and his return skills make him a great runner after the catch.
Ford will give the Raiders more versatility to their passing game.
He will also help the running game by drawing help over the top on his side.
Jason Campbell: Managing The Game
What's been overlooked during the winning streak is the way Jason Campbell has managed the game. Cable said of his quarterback, "He's been doing a good job of checking out of some bad plays for us"
How will that factor into next Sunday?
Palomalu lines up in different places throughout the game.
If he crowds the line to stop the run, Campbell can throw it over the top. If Palomalu stays back, Campbell can call a run play with Palomalu worried about the deep ball.
Campbell has also done a good job of finding fullback Marcel Reece. That will come in handy at times with the blitzes Campbell will see plus they don't have a linebacker that can cover Reece or McFadden.
Campbell can also call a run play on third down with the dime defense on the field to cover Oakland's running backs.
He called one on third and 11 and the Raiders almost got it.
But what I really want to see is Campbell go over the top of that weak Steeler secondary.
Bruce Gradkowski: Plan B
In that event, not all is lost for the Raiders as the team will not panic when the "Pittsburgh Kid" comes into the game. I'm sure the Steelers will prepare for both quarterback given what Gradkowski did to them last year.
Plan B isn't a bad plan in this case.
Jared Veldheer: It's Up To You Kid
That's a lot of pressure on a rookie from a division two school but the outcome of this game can depend on Jared Veldheer. The Steelers love to blitz off of the edge where Veldheer set up so his hands will be full.
LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are both on pace to have double digit sacks this year. Veldheer will see his fair share of both of the Steeler blitzers so Veldheer will have to bring his A game.
If you look at the play of Campbell, you'll see that he has done the job very well when he's had protection. A huge part of Campbell's improvement has been Veldheer's improvement and taking the left tackle spot.
This is the perfect game for Veldheer to prove that he is the guy to protect Campbell's backside. He's going to have to Campbell extra time to find his receiver on the extra deep routes.
I like Veldheer's chances as he has a harder time with taller 4-3 ends than he does speed rushers.
The No. 24 Run Defense Against The No. 13 Rushing Attack
The Oakland Raiders are ranked No. 24 against the run so the Steelers should take advantage with their No. 13 ranked running game.
Not so fast.
In the last few games, the Raider run defense has improved and moved up to No. 24 from No. 31. This is another area that will hurt the Steelers due to the injuries to Starks and to left guard Chris Kemoeatu.
Kemoeatu may play but won't be full strength with a knee and ankle sprain.
He would have problems at full strength.
Hue Jackson: Call The Offense
Everyone in the world knows that Pittsburgh loves to blitz and coverage isn't the strength of their linebackers. The Raider running backs have a skill set that has the Raiders in a four wide receiver set even when they are in the I formation.
Jackson has seen plenty of this Steeler defense during his time in Baltimore and knows how to attack it. The Steeler are wounded up front with their secondary unable to cover the Raider wide outs.
The Steeler linebackers surely can't cover the Raider running backs. If I'm right about Jackson, he will take advantage of every match up I mentioned and some I don't know about.
Deep balls will be flying, Zach Miller will get fed and the running backs will get theirs in the run and passing game.
This can be a game Jackson hands his hat on.
Nnamdi Asomugha: The Question Mark
Nnamdi Asomugha in an interview has said, "I'm going to try to make my ankle as good as I can and just go." Raider fans should interpret that as, "I'm not going to miss this game for anything.
But cooler heads will prevail as Asomugha is needed beyond this game.
Raider fans are hoping that his high ankle sprain allows him to follow Steeler receiver Hines Ward for three hours. Ward looks like he'll play despite his concussion last Sunday against the Patriots.
If Asomugha plays, the Raiders need him to blanket Ward all day as Ward is the Steeler's main guy. Speedster Mike Wallace is a good, young receiver but isn't quite the difference maker Ward is.
Ward's concussion is a big part of why the Steelers could quite up with the Patriot's high score. Improved Raider speedster Stanford Routt should match up well enough with Wallace to keep him from going crazy.
If Asomugha can't play, Chris Johnson may draw Ward as his assignment.
I like Michael Huff to cover Ward.
Tommy Kelly Is Awake Now
Tommy Kelly has spent the last few years in Raider Nation Sleeping on his immense talent. A year after Seymour's arrival, he has gotten through to Kelly and Kelly is now awake.
Kelly is No. 2 in sacks for a defensive tackle and he has improved tremendously against the run. He is starting to draw double teams on his side along with Seymour.
Trai Essex will be the man in front on Kelly next Sunday with Kelly as the favorite. Ben Roethlisberger will have pressure in his face with Kelly and Seymour in the fold.
Who do you double team?
Richard Seymour Will Dominate
Since moving to defensive tackle, Richard Seymour has become a dominant defensive lineman in the NFL. Without an extra man blocking him, there isn't a left guard in the league that can hold him out.
Seymour is currently No. 2 in the league among defensive tackles in tackles and No. 3 in sacks. And this is without mentioning the double teams he takes to create opportunities for others.
It really won't be pretty for the Steelers if Kemoeatu's backup plays.
It won't be pretty for the Steelers if Kemoeatu plays.
Matt Shaughnessy To Be Disruptive
Pittsburgh Steeler left tackle Max Starks is out for the season with a neck injury. This is an invitation for Raider up and comer Matt Shaughnessy to have a breakout game.
Shaughnessy already has five sacks on the season to tie for the Raider lead and that is with limited snaps. He is also a part of the improvement of the Raider run defense as he sets the edge very well.
Journeyman Johnathan Scott will get the assignment of keeping Shaughnessy out of the Steeler backfield. I don't see how Scott wins that match up as Starks would have even had his hands full with Shaughnessy.
This will be a huge advantage for the Raider defense both run and pass.
Kamerion Wimbley: Defensive X Factor
Kamerion Wimbley has been asked to be more of an all around linebacker so far but can put Roethlisberger under the heat lamp even more. He'll cover and protect the edge in the run game but can rush the passer with the best of them.
The question is how much will he be asked to blitzed?
He will make the most of his opportunities to sack the quarterback.
Lamarr Houston: Youth Against Experience
Lamarr Houston will be matched up on Flozell Adams all day next Sunday. Houston has a real nasty side that will without a doubt challenge Adams.
This is a very important match up because Steeler running back Rashard Mendenhall gets most of his yards running right. The NFL will see just how old Adams is by the end of this game against Houston.
This is another match up that could determine the winner of the game too.
John Marshall: Keep The Blitzes Coming
Oakland Raider defensive coordinator John Marshall started the season in vanilla mode. It was a curious move on his part because he is an attacking style defensive coordinator.
Then it got worse.
He started to run some zones and the Raiders are a man to man team with man to man personnel. Raiders Nation was up in arms as the Raider defense was starting to look suspect.
Then it all changed.
I don't know what Marshall said to Davis but he should keep saying it to him. He was suddenly allowed to blitz and he dialed up all kinds of them.
The Raider defense has looked like a top defense since.
Marshall needs to blitz Roethlisberger because he hold the ball too long and tries to extend plays. Even former Raider defensive coordinator Rob Ryan dialed up blitzes to lead the Steelers to -18 yard passing in 2006.
Blitzing has to be the way to go.
Roethlisberger will be knocked around with his left tackle not playing this Sunday. The Raider front seven is hard enough to deal with for a healthy team these days.
Asomugha may be out but the improved Routt and Johnson should hold up well enough.
The injury to Aaron Smith will be big as that's one less double team for the Raiders and the Steeler linebackers can't run as free. This immensely helps the Raider running game just as it did the Patriots.
It's going to be interesting to see if the Raiders can protect the quarterback long enough to find the receivers on those long routes. If they do, the Steeler secondary has not shown the ability to stop anything down field.
Will the Steeler linebackers be able to cover the Raider running backs.
There's a lot in the match up that favors the Raiders so don't put your money on the Steelers yet.
I hope you enjoyed the slide show.