The Steelers travel to Oakland to face the Raiders this week. Despite their 0-2 record, the Raiders shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Oakland has always been a tough place to play. Their fans are loud, passionate, and sometimes violent. In fact, Oakland is one of only 2 NFL cities in which I’m reluctant to go into their stadium wearing the opposing team’s jersey (Philadelphia is the other city).
But more important than the stadium is the fact that on any given Sunday, any NFL team can beat any other NFL team. The last time the Steelers traveled to Oakland and took them lightly, they lost the game.
Both teams are going to have challenges on Sunday.
For Oakland, the biggest challenge is going to be keeping up with the Steelers’ wide receivers. Oakland jettisoned most of their cornerbacks during the offseason (don’t ask me why). That’s actually how we picked up DeMarcus Van Dyke. Of the cornerbacks that they retained, starters Ron Bartell (broken shoulder blade) and Shawntae Spencer (sprained foot) are both out with injuries. So they’re going to be starting a bunch of anonymous backup cornerbacks. It’s difficult for a team with good cornerbacks to defend against the Steelers’ passing game. This bunch has almost no chance. They’re so depleted at the position that they’ve had starting safety Michael Huff practicing at cornerback. Hopefully, Todd Haley is planning on passing early and often.
The Raiders have challenges on offense as well. Right tackle Khalif Barnes is injured and won’t play on Sunday. But more importantly, Running back Darren McFadden has struggled this year. He has 26 carries for only 54 yards. That’s only 2.1 yards per carry. That’s about the same as the Steelers have been getting from Isaac Redman. And we all know that’s not good.
But the Steelers aren’t without their own challenges. Injuries continue to be a problem for them as well. Both James Harrison and Troy Polamalu are going to miss Sunday’s game. And on offense, Rashard Mendenhall still isn’t ready to go.
Despite the weakness of the Raiders’ cornerbacks, the Steelers are still going to have to get their running game going. They’ve only been averaging 70.5 yards per game, and they rank 30th in the NFL in rushing. But last week Reggie Bush ran for 172 yards against the Raiders, so perhaps the Steelers’ running backs can exploit their run defense too.
I predict that Big Ben is going to have a big game, and that the Steelers are going to leave Oakland with a win. A final score of 28-10 sounds about right.