An old AFC rivalry will be renewed this week when the Raiders and Steelers go head to head in the Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders are playing in the second consecutive game against two of the best teams in the AFC.
The defense will have it’s hands full dealing with future Hall of Famers, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. The Raiders did catch a break however, with the injury to running James Connor who will not play. Connor has been excellent all year in the absence of Le’Veon Bell.
A match up to keep an eye on throughout the game is the Steelers pass rush versus the Raiders offensive line. Kelechi Osemele did not practice on Friday, it’s unlikely he will play. The struggles of Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker have been well documented all year. The Steelers are a high volume blitzing team and lead the league in sacks with 41.
The line will need to protect Derek Carr to have a chance in this game. If they allow the Steelers front seven to dominant the game, then it will be a long day for the Raiders.
Now let’s see what coaches from both teams are saying ahead of the week 13 match up.
Head Coach Jon Gruden, on the evolution of Ben Roethlisberger
“He doesn’t look any different to me. He doesn’t look any different to me when I was playing against him, when I was coaching last time or when I was in the booth or studying him now. He’s still got a great physical presence in the pocket. He still creates a lot of offense when nothing is there with his scrambling. He’s at his best when they need him the most. They need him a lot right now, so we’re expecting the best from Roethlisberger on Sunday.”
Jon Gruden, on coaching against Mike Tomlin
“He’s an energetic coach. He’s hired good assistants. They obviously know something about talent over there. They’ve been able to draft well. They know what Pittsburgh Steelers look like and smell like, and they’ve been able to develop them.”
Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther, on the similarities between Ben Roethlisberger and Patrick Mahomes
“It’s similar. With Mahomes we did a pretty good job of taking away his first read. He made a lot of plays with his feet, getting out of the pocket. A lot of really impressive throws. Ben is very much of that, being able to do those things. There is going to be five or six plays where he may slide out to the right or left and throw the ball down the field. There was a play against Jacksonville where they were kind of struggling for a while and they get a broken play where Antonio Brown is on the backside, he kind of stopped his route and he takes off across the field and he throws it for a touchdown, which kind of opened the game up for them. He’s definitely a challenge.”
Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin, on the Raiders design offensively
“Obviously with each week we’re presented with different schematic challenges. This week obviously is one of them. I think the utilization of Jared Cook, in particular the way he’s able to attack you in vertical spaces, is going to be a big time challenge. It has been for everybody that’s played him over the course of the year. I think he’s having an incredible season. I think the autonomy that Carr has at the line of scrimmage and the options that Coach Gruden is always giving guys that plays quarterback for him is as challenging as anything.”