By Matt Pawlikowski
Steelers vs Oakland Raiders
Where: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA
When: Sunday, Sept. 23 at 4:25 p.m. ET
The Oakland-Steelers series is one of the oldest in the NFL, and each time the two teams play, while not in the same division, there is no love lost.
This edition, Pittsburgh faces a Raiders team with a quarterback who is all too familiar with the Steelers–Carson Palmer. The veteran quarterback says continuity is a big reason for the Steelers’ success.
“They don’t miss on draft picks. Their first, second, third and fourth round picks, especially on defense, are on the field for them and they’re starters,” he said. “If you look at the years of experience, there’s 60-70 years of experience. There’s three or four guys that are 10-year guys, a couple guys that are eight, couple guys that are nine. There’s a lot of experience in the same system for all of those years together. When those guys go in the off-season [and] they study film, they’re not studying a new defensive coordinator scheme, they’re studying the same scheme.”
This year the Raiders have struggled against teams that were expected to be sub par, falling last week to the Dolphins in Maimi. One of the biggest reasons is the struggles of the run game, despite having one of the top backs in the league. The Raiders are averaging a league worst 2.0 yards per carry per game.
Palmer says he’s not concerned.
“You don’t let it frustrate you. And you know the saving grace is [Darren] McFadden’s back there. He’s one arm-tackle away from breaking off a 40-50 yarder,” Palmer said. “ He’s got that potential. He’s got that ability. He’s done it before. We’re going to stick with it. We’re not frustrated. We’re disappointed in ourselves for not executing it better, but we’re not going to let it frustrate us.”
Oakland has one of the best and craziest fan bases in the land, and while noise could prove to be a factor, Ben Roethlisberger is on a mission after losing there the last time the team played.
“I remember it being a crazy hostile place, and throwing like six or seven picks,” Roethlisberger said.. That’s about it. And losing the game.”
That was in 2006, and the Steelers not only lost the game, but Roehtlisberger suffered a concussion.
Prediction: Look for the Steelers to be 3-1 following the game, even if both James Harrison and Troy Polamalu are out of the game. Ryan Mundy has looked good, and if the defensive backs play the same way they did against New York., it could prove to be a long afternoon for the Raiders on their home turf.
Steeler running backs vs. Raiders defensive line: Last week Reggie Bush decimated the Raiders with 172 yards rushing. While it is expected Oakland will see a dose of Rashard Mendenhall, how much he plays and whether he does is still in the air. Should Mendenhall make his return, it could be a huge boost to the Steelers, especially with Jonathan Dwyer nursing a turf toe injury.
Edge goes to Steelers.
Carson Palmer vs. the Steelers secondary
Palmer is a familiar foe and is not Peyton Manning. With Dick LeBeau mixing things up, including a four man rush on the line, that pressure helped the secondary against the Jets. Ike Taylor seemed to get a wakeup call in game one, and has taken his game up a notch. An interesting x factor here is whether the Raiders will see one of their former picks lining up and proving a point.
Edge goes to Steelers.
The Raiders have one of the best kickers in the game in Sebastian Janikowski. If the game is close, the former Seminole has the leg to boot a long one and has been clutch in key situations. Shaun Suisham did kick his longest of the season last year in San Francisco with a 51 yarder, so the Bay air has been good to him.
Edge goes to Oakland.
Palmer on Steeler safety Ryan Clark: “Ryan’s probably one of the most underrated players in the game. If not that, he’s one of the most underrated players on defense in the league because he’ll come up and hit people. He lets guys take chances like Troy [Polamalu] and like their linebackers and shoot gaps, take chances in run games that they can get you beat, but he’s always there to save them. He can cover a lot of ground. He understands the system. He’s a 10-year vet; a really complete player and complete safety.”
Matt Pawlikowski is a veteran journalist covering all things Steelers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.