1:25pm Pacific, CBS TV
The Raiders enter week three down 0-2 on the season. The Steelers come to Oakland with a 1-1 record, having lost to the Broncos and beat the Jets. The Steelers are a clear favorite to win this game but only by 3.5 points.
The Steelers would be more highly favored if it weren't for them missing their two best defenders-Troy Polamalu and James Harrison-as well as their starting running back, Rashard Mendenhall. With these players out, the Raiders have the best and perhaps only shred of hope to win this game.
Raiders offense vs Steelers defense
The Steelers are not their usual juggernauts on defense. James Harrison and his 58 career sacks is being replaced by Chris Carter and his zero sacks. Polamalu and his five All Pro selections is replaced by Ryan Mundy and his... not being Polamalu.
The Raiders are desperate to get their running game going with Darren McFadden. He is supposed to be the star player on this team and yet he has averaged just 2.0 yards per carry through the first two games of the season. The Steelers defensive line is not great and have given up 4.1 yards per carry to opposing backs.
Earlier this week, Greg Knapp preached patience with the zone blocking scheme. Hard to tell how long it will take for this line to become a cohesive unit and begin opening holes more consistently. They were shredded by the Dolphins stout defensive line last week. But if indeed they just need more time in it, they should be better this week. Although there is no indication they will be
Carson Palmer and the offense will look to finish drives. The Steelers pass defense is in the top five thus far in the season even without the pass rush of Harrison and the ball hawking skills of Polamalu. Carson Palmer has yet to lead the Raiders to a red zone touchdown this season and this week won't be any easier. Although having Denarius Moore back in the lineup should help in the overall sense.
Steelers offense vs Raiders defense
The Steelers are having the same issues in the run game as the Raiders. Isaac Redman has been carrying the load with Mendenhall out and has averaged just 2.0 yards per carry-just like McFadden. The Raiders rush defense gave up 166 yards on the ground to Reggie Bush last week. They shouldn't have the same difficulties with Redman. It is the one area the Raiders should have an advantage.
The passing game is another story.
Ben Roethlisberger is a great quarterback who has three great targets in the receiving game. He has Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace at wide receiver and Heath Miller at tight end. Both of the Raiders starting corners are out and Pat Lee and Joselio Hanson are starting.
The Steelers have to be licking their chops at the prospects of carving up this Raiders secondary. The only thing that could stand in their way is a pass rush-a pass rush that has yet to show up for the Raiders. They have two sacks this season. The team's best pass rusher, Matt Shaughnessy, had his first sack last week and Lamarr Houston has yet to do anything from the other defensive end spot. The key could be to send the outside linebackers on more blitzes to help add some pressure. If Roethlisberger is given any time, he will pick this defense apart through the air.