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Raiders vs. Steelers: 5 things to watch

Keys to victory for Las Vegas in Week 2

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills
T.J. Watt
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

We’re barely over the intensity of the Las Vegas Raiders’ Week 1 home 33-27 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night, and now, they have to get ready for another tough AFC North opponent with a game at the Pittsburgh Steelers looming Sunday.

Like the Raiders, Pittsburgh is also 1-0 and is hard to beat at home. This will be a challenging task for Jon Gruden’s team. Here are five keys to victory for the Raiders:

Contain T.J. Watt:
He is likely keeping Gruden up at night (he doesn’t sleep much, anyway). Watt is a premier player and he was a monster last week against Buffalo. With an injured and young Raiders’ offensive line, Watt and company will be coming hard after Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr. Somehow, the Raiders’ offensive line must keep Watt from wrecking the game. It won’t be easy.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills
Ben Roethlisberger
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Make Big Ben uncomfortable:
In the first half against Buffalo, Roethlisberger was awful and at the age of 39, he, frankly, looked cooked. But he came alive in the second half, although he was rankled as the worst quarterback in the NFL in Week 1 by Pro Football Focus. But he did supply production as the game went on.

The Raiders’ defensive line has to make life tough for Roethlisberger’s like it did for Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson by consistently pressuring him. Big Ben, of course, can’t run like Jackson, but he’s still tough to bring back because of his size and toughness, so he will not go down without a fight. Maxx Crosby, who was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after sacking Jackson twice, needs another great game, especially with fellow pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue and Carl Nassib dealing with injuries.

Tackle better:
The Raiders’ defense showed some great signs against Baltimore. It had three sacks and two huge fumble recoveries (which led to two Raiders’ touchdowns). But it wasn’t perfect. They reportedly led the NFL with 11 missed tackles in Week 1. So, there is still fine-tuning to do with this unit. The Steelers’ have some playmakers, so giving them more opportunities with whiffs, is not advised.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders
Kenyan Drake
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Run the ball better:
The Raiders expect their running game to be elite. It wasn’t against Baltimore. Josh Jacobs, who was (and still is) banged up had 34 yards on 10 carries and backup Kenyan Drake had 11 yards on six carries. That needs to increase to keep the offensive balance Gruden seeks and Carr thrives with. With the offensive line in injury/caused flux, it won’t be easy. But the Raiders must find away to make an impact on the ground.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills
Najee Harris
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Keep an eye on Najee Harris:
The Alabama product and the No. 24 overall pick in the 2021 draft was on the field for all 58 of Pittsburgh’s offensive plays. He didn’t make a huge impact as he had 16 carries for 45 yards and had one catch for four yards. But expect the Steelers’ to increase his touches this week. The Raiders allowed a beat-up Ravens’ running game to produce 189 yards on the ground. Surely, the Steelers will feel like they can expose that. So, Harris must be a focal point of Bradley’s unit.