Let’s look at five keys to the game for the Raiders:
Start hot again:
The Raiders have scored on their first drive of the game in seven straight games, which is the longest current streak in the NFL, according to ESPN. Starting the home season with a score would be a big spark and help gain momentum against the Steelers, who will likely have a lot of fans in the building. Starting fast didn’t help in Buffalo in Week 2, but it’s always positive when it happens.
Run the ball:
One of the more surprising and concerning aspects of the early season for Las Vegas has been lack of creating a running game. The Raiders were awful on the ground last week in Buffalo. 2022 NFL rushing king Josh Jacobs had minus-2 yards on nine carries against the Bills and has just 46 yards on 28 carries this season for a per carry average of a paltry 1.6 yards per run. The Raiders must find a way to get Jacobs going to take pressure off quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the passing game.
Contain T.J .Watt:
The Raiders have done an excellent job in protecting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo thus far. He has not been sacked in two games. Every other NFL team has allowed, at least, one sack this season. Yet, here come Watt, who is tied for the NFL lead with four sacks. The Steelers’ star pass-rusher is a game wrecker and he will challenge the Raider’s offensive line. Keeping Watt in check is paramount for the home team.
Mess with Kenny Pickett:
The Pittsburgh quarterback can be forced into making mistakes and harassing him will go a long way to making that happen. The Raiders’ defensive line, other than star pass-rusher Maxx Crosby, has been extremely quiet in the first two games. Buffalo consistently double-teamed Crosby in Week 2 and the Steelers could do the same until someone else steps up. The Las Vegas pass-rush has to be a factor in this game. The truth is, this Pittsburgh offense has struggled so far (it leads the NFL with 14 three-and-outs) and the Raiders have to take advantage.
Win turnover battle:
The Raiders are losing the turnover battle 4-0 in two games. That, of course, is not a winning formula. Creating turnovers has long been a problem for Las Vegas’ defense and it was a point of emphasis this offseason. We must start seeing results in this game.