For whatever reason it might be, the Oakland Raiders have been a problem for the Pittsburgh Steelers when they have gotten the opportunity to be the host team. The Steelers have lost three straight games in Oakland with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, but they have a chance to snap that streak today.
It should be a simple enough task, on paper. The Raiders are among the worst teams in the league, and the Steelers are still among the best, despite their two-game losing skid. But the other Raiders teams they lost to were bad as well.
My biggest concern in this game would be tight end Jared Cook, who is having a career year. He has 54 receptions for 709 yards and six touchdowns on the season at 31 years old. That is already his highest touchdown total and he is nearing his career-high of 759 yards from 2011 while he was with the Tennessee Titans.
This would be less of a concern if the Steelers didn’t have a problem with defending tight ends. That wasn’t much the case in the past couple of weeks, but they have allowed over 700 yards and five touchdowns to tight ends so far this year.
While Oakland’s group of wide receivers might not be much to look at on paper, they always have the potential to go off, and they are just getting Jordy Nelson back healthy now. Marcell Ateman is stepping into a bigger role now as well after the Amari Cooper trade and Martavis Bryant’s injury.
It will be notable to see what the status of Daryl Worley is for today’s game. The cornerback spent the entire week of practice as a limited participant and is questionable to play. The Raiders need all the help they can get on the back end, owning among the worst pass defenses in the league.
And that is in no small part due to the fact that they don’t boast much of a pass rush after they spent the year getting rid of Khalil Mack and then Bruce Irvin. Amazingly, the Raiders have just 10 sacks on the season, and Irvin had three of them. Hopefully Ben Roethlisberger can have a clean day in the pocket, which should minimize some of the poor decisions he has been making. Rookie Maurice Hurst ended the week as a non-participant and is questionable to play. He leads the team with four sacks.
Oakland also has a banged up offensive line, with Donald Penn still on injured reserve. Kalechi Osemele ended the week not participating and is questionable to play. Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson did not have game status updates but were only limited in practice and are not at 100 percent.
So in other words, I would hope to see a very good game from the Steelers’ pass rush against this beat up Raiders line. The Raiders have surrendered 39 sacks this year, which is the fifth-most in the NFL. They’ve given up more sacks than any team the Steelers have faced this year.