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Raiders-Steelers preview: How has Kenny Pickett looked so far in year two?

Five questions with Behind the Steel Curtain

Las Vegas Raiders v Pittsburgh Steelers
Kenny Pickett vs. Raiders 2022
Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

You can’t tell the history of the NFL without going over the Las Vegas Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers rivalry, and Week 3 of the 2023 season pits the long-standing foes against each other on Sunday Night Football. Ahead of the game, Jarrett Bailey of Behind the Steel Curtain was kind enough to answer a few questions to give Raider fans a quick preview of the matchup.

Q: How has Kenny Pickett looked so far in his first full season as a starter?

A: He’s looked bad. He’s thrown three bad interceptions, had a fourth one dropped, and just doesn’t look comfortable. The Steelers’ offense is currently the worst in the league in yards per drive and offensive points scored. A lot of that is Matt Canada’s doing, but a lot of it is also on Kenny Pickett.

Q: The Steelers’ rushing attack seems to be struggling with the second-fewest rushing yards (96) in the NFL heading into Week 3. What’s been the issue, the offensive line? Is Najee Harris regressing? A combination of both?

A: The offensive line has been bad, but the Steelers also telegraph when they’re going to run. Warren Sharp did a great breakdown of it, and he showed a chart that shows that the Steelers run 90 percent of the time when under center, and throw 80 percent of the time when in shotgun. Defenses know what’s coming, and it’s very hard to get ahead of the curve like that. So a lot of it is scheming, as well as the offensive line not performing well.

Q: With Pittsburgh struggling on the ground and Dionte Johnson on IR, how important is it for the Steelers to get George Pickens going and what have you seen from Pickens so far this season?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns
George Pickens
Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

A: It’s incredibly important, and we saw what he’s capable of on Monday night. He had that long 71-yard touchdown catch and run and he showed better ability to create separation than he did last season. The Raiders don’t have a great secondary, so hopefully the Steelers test out a few deep shots to No. 14.

Q: As far as who’s more valuable to the defense, who would you pick between T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick? Also, if you were Josh McDaniels, how would you gameplan for those two?

A: It’s unquestionably Watt. He draws so much attention and is the reason the Steelers’ pass rush is so good. Fitzpatrick is great, but an elite edge rusher is much more valuable than an elite safety. In terms of what McDaniels can do, this is a great matchup for him. Run the ball, which the Steelers have been bad at stopping, and nickel and dime the Steelers to death. They traditionally are a team that sits in soft coverage, which plays into the hand of what McDaniels’ offenses do.

Q: This game projects to be a tight one with both teams sitting at 1-1 and with similar point differentials while DraftKings Sportsbook has the Raiders as slight favorites as well. What’s your pick for the game and are there any prop bets on DraftKings that you like?

A: I think the Raiders win. The Steelers haven’t beaten the Raiders on the road since 1995, and the matchup isn’t a favorable one for Pittsburgh. In terms of prop bets, I like Josh Jacobs over 71.5 yards rushing, as well as George Pickens over 54.5 yards receiving.