Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders: Will McFadden Break the Steel Curtain?

Kyle Vassalo@VassaloBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2010

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 06:  Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders looks for running room during a second quarter run while playing the Pittsburgh Steelrs on December 6, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday November 21st, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Pittsburgh -8


The Oakland Raiders started out in pathetic fashion. At 1-3, the optimism was swept away from the locker room. Now, the Raiders are on a three game win streak and have moved to 5-4, which puts them on top of the AFC West.

What is even more impressive is their 3-0 record against division opponents this season. The Raiders have been given new life and the Steelers will be looking to take that life away on Sunday.

The 6-3 Pittsburgh Steelers started out the season with a bang, but have since regressed, losing two of their last three games by double digit margins. The Steelers look out of sorts and have not beaten a team by the give eight point spread since they took out the lowly Browns in week six.

The Steelers aren’t going to sleep on the Raiders, but are they really eight points superior.

Keys to the Game:

  • The Silver and Black vs. Black and Gold rivalry might not really be renewed, but both teams being competitive gives it new life. These two teams still dislike each other. The Steelers are the most physical team in football and being the proud organization they are, will not want to drop another game at home, especially against the Raiders. On the other side, the Raiders would gain a signature victory by taking out Pittsburgh on the road. It appears as though the team is once again buying into the, “just win baby” motto, and playing for an AFC West title gives them an achievable goal to pursue.
  • The Raiders have a dominant secondary, allowing only 184.8 yards a game. They will need to be focused throughout the entire game when they face Mike Wallace. One minor slip up will spell certain death, as Wallace can flat out fly. He has torched opposing defenses all season long, and in the last two games he has hauled in 13 catches for 246 yards and three touchdowns. He is an elite deep threat and teams often lose sight of him when they get caught up in the Steelers ground game. The Raiders have the personnel to go step for step with Wallace, but they need to roll safety Michael Huff to his side just to be safe. Hines Ward is banged up, but even if he plays he does not pose the same threat Wallace does.
  • If Jason Campbell continues to perform the way he has been, the Raiders are going to be competitive against just about anyone. Campbell started off the season slow, but has made a miraculous come back, putting up a rating of over 100 in three out of his last five games since his return. Defenses are loading up the box with Darren McFadden in the backfield. Although Campbell’s role is limited to under 20 throws a game, he plays a crucial role in the offense. The Raiders may struggle against the Steelers on the ground, so utilizing the openings presented in the passing game is going to be essential to victory.
  • Tommy Kelly has five sacks in his last five games, but don’t expect him to keep his streak alive this week. Kelly is going to be facing one of the best interior lines in football. His recent production has surely caught the eye of Pittsburgh. While he can’t be attacked with reckless abandon—due to the supporting cast on the Raiders front—Kelly will likely be neutralized in this one. Rookie Maurkice Pouncey has the upper hand in this matchup.

Key Matchup:

Darren McFadden Vs. The Steel Curtain

  • The Raiders are a completely different team when McFadden is in the lineup. He is averaging a league high 108.1 yards per game. McFadden has the ability to explode for a massive game in every single outing. No team has been able to limit McFadden to less than 100 all purpose yards this season.
  • This week, McFadden faces a different animal. The Steelers are as stingy as they come against the run, allowing only 63.2 yards per game on the ground. The Steelers are built to stop the run and break the will of the opposing offense. With a defense that features Casey Hampton at nose tackle and Lamaar Woodley, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison at linebacker, it is understandable why offenses struggle to run the ball.
  • The X factor in this matchup is going to be Troy Polamalu. He, like Brett Kiesel and Lawrence Timmons, is listed as questionable, but it appears as though Polamalu will be ready to go Sunday. Polamalu has not been playing as well as he has in previous years, but he is still a dangerous asset to the Steeler defense. He brings a combination of tenacity and versatility that is unmatched at the safety position. Every team tries to attack the most vulnerable part of a defense. Who would you go after with McFadden if you were the Raiders?

Wrap Up:

While the Steelers are still physically unmatched throughout the league, they have been less than spectacular in recent weeks. The Raiders haven’t played competition that is at the level of Pittsburgh.

It is unclear what will occur when they encounter resistance in the run game, but if the Raiders can be even somewhat effective with Jason Campbell, there is no way the Steelers are going to cover by eight. This matchup features one team on the rise and one team on a slight decline. While I like the Steelers to win this one, they don’t have a chance at winning by two scores.

Free NFL Pick: Oakland +8


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