As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) today’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa in 2021 home opener against the Las Vegas Raiders.
My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. They Bracket Darren Waller
Waller is the Raiders’ top threat every defense knows it. Every defense tries to find ways to shut him down. And the Raiders know that too. They do everything they can to move him around and isolate him while still peppering Waller with as many targets as possible, 19 of them Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens.
It’s difficult to ask one man to stop a guy like Waller. Just as they’ve done facing other interior threats, Tyler Boyd comes to mind (even though they’re very much different players), bracketing him and taking away inside/out is going to be a key strategy. That has consequences too but you want to do everything in your power not to lose to #83. Make other guys beat you.
2. The Front Four Beats Las Vegas’ Front Five
“Our front four beat their front five” was Mike Tomlin’s mantra against the Buffalo Bills. It should be repeated today against the Raiders. Hampered with offensive line injuries, they’ll be on their second-string left and right guards. Vegas struggled with blitzes and stunt pickup last week so we could see a more aggressive and attacking Steelers’ pass rush than we did versus Buffalo. But getting after Carr is key, knowing how likely they are to lean on the passing game without starting RB Josh Jacobs.
3. Vertical Shots Succeed
The Raiders play a three-deep structure, taking away the deep middle of the field. That plays into the Steelers’ gameplan, Ben Roethlisberger always preferring to throw downfield and outside the numbers as opposed to between the hashes. Single high looks like that create 1v1 matchups on the outside. I could see Chase Claypool getting several 50/50 chances in this game. If he capitalizes, it’ll be a huge boost for the Steelers’ offense.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. Raiders Get Chunk Plays
The Raiders can get chunk plays too. They have a ton of speed at WR, led by Henry Ruggs (4.27 40) and Bryan Edwards (4.4 range) against a Steelers’ cornerback group that doesn’t have a lot of speed. Technique will be important to avoid getting beat downfield. The Raiders love to take vertical shots. Six different players caught a 20+ yard pass to beat the Ravens.
2. Run Game Can’t Get Going
Pittsburgh got away with a lackluster run game (and overall offense, really) to beat the Bills. At some point, this run game needs to get going and the sooner the better. The road should be a little easier against the Raiders than the Bills but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Week One was good enough for this front five but it can’t be the standard going forward.
3. O-Line Doesn’t Allow Time For Downfield Throws
We wrote above that the Steelers can get outside and vertical to beat the Raiders. But that, of course, presumes the offensive line can give Roethlisberger the time and pocket to throw from. The Raiders’ d-line was excellent a week ago and big reason why they won that game. Pittsburgh’s gotta be up to the task.
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