The Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Oakland Raiders Sunday at the O.co Coliseum and below are seven things to watch for in the game.
Laying The Woodley On An Undrafted – Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley enters the game against the Raiders with a team-high five quarterback sacks and it looks as if he will be going up against undrafted rookie Matt McCants, who has yet to give up a sack this season and has allowed only two quarterback hurries in 65 pass blocking opportunities this season. These are the kind of matchups that Woodley should dominate.
Pryor Run Engagements – Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor leads his team in rushing this season and offensive coordinator Greg Olsen is not afraid to call designed runs in an attempt to keep defenses honest. Pryor already has five runs of 20 or more yards this season, so the Steelers defense must contain him on the early downs, as that is when he is most likely to tuck it and run.
Raiding The Middle Again – The Steelers offense successfully attacked the middle of the Baltimore Ravens defense last week with rookie running back Le’Veon Bell and that just so happens to be where the Raiders defense is the most vulnerable against the run. So far this season, teams have averaged 4.89 yards per rush right up the middle against the Raiders, so look for guard David DeCastro to be a busy man once again on Sunday as he will work to get to the second level in order to take out a linebacker.
Hole In The Black Hole Red Zone – The Steelers red zone offense has been pretty inept so far this season but on Sunday they will go against a Raiders defense that has given up an average of 2.3 red zone touchdowns a game so far this year. Continuing to settle for Shaun Suisham field goals will eventually come back to haunt this team, so enough is enough. Last week the offense was creative with the shovel pass to tight end Heath Miller, so expect more creativity this week.
Short & Sweet – The Raiders have only allowed 18 plays of 20 yards or more all season and all of them have been through the air. Much like the Steelers defense, they would rather give up the underneath completions and tackle the catch quickly. Short left and short middle is where offenses have had the most success against the Raiders defense so far this season as the completion rates allowed to both of those areas of the field rank them 32nd and 30th in the league respectively. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has to be patient and take what is given him in order to move the ball through the air.
Will Houston Have A Problem? – Raiders right defensive end Lamarr Houston is by far the best pass rusher on the team as he leads the Silver and Black in sacks with three and hurries with 18. Houston will be going up against Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum, who is looking to show that he is indeed the long-term answer when it comes to protecting the blind-side of Roethlisberger in just his third start. The SMU product had the best game of his young career against the Ravens last week and he will need a repeat performance of that effort Sunday at Oakland.
Zoltan Power Outage? – If punter Zoltan Mesko fails to have a good game against the Raiders, the Steelers will likely move on from him when they return to Pittsburgh. According to Pro Football Focus, Mesko is the worst punter in the league right now and the Steelers already struggle enough in the field position battle without adding poor punts on top of it.