After finishing the 2017 season with a 13-3 record, the Steelers were upset by the Jaguars in the divisional rounds of the playoffs. With the star-studded trio of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell still intact, Pittsburgh will be expected to make a deeper run in the playoffs this year.
Key Departures: Martavis Bryant, Mike Mitchell
Key Additions: Morgan Burnett, Jon Bostic, Daniel McCullers
2018 NFL Network Power Rankings: #8
2017: 3rd in total offense, 8th in points per game with 25.4
2017: 5th in total defense, 7th in points per game with 19.2
Antonio Brown VS Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin
The Raiders envision Conley as a ‘shutdown cornerback’ so it is inevitable he will be matched up against Brown, who is widely considered the best wide receiver in the NFL. But another name to watch is Melvin. In the Colts matchup against the Steelers, Melvin shadowed Antonio Brown on 88% of his routes, holding the six-time Pro Bowler to just two catches for 42 yards on four targets.
Raiders offensive line VS T.J. Watt
With Ryan Shazier set to miss the 2018 season due to a scary spinal injury he suffered in December, T.J. Watt becomes the focal player on the Steelers defense. As a rookie, the first round pick recorded 7 sacks last year emerging as a force to be reckoned with. It will be up to Oakland’s offensive line to keep Watt from wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Le’Veon Bell VS Raiders defensive line
Containing Bell will very likely be the difference in this game, as the Steelers offense will become one-dimensional if the threat of Bell on the ground is eliminated. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin will have their work cut out for them, but the interior presence of Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall should help keep Bell in check.
The December 9th face-off against the Steelers should be one of the toughest games on the Raiders 2018 schedule. It could also have significant playoff ramifications potentially deciding a first round bye or wildcard spot. With the game taking place in Oakland, the Silver & Black will have a legitimate chance to come away with a victory.