By Matt Pawlikowski
Over the years, the Raiders-Steelers game have been a will of strength on defense.
Sunday will be more of the same, but this time two of the Steelers marquee players will not take to the field, as both James Harrison and Troy Polamalu are scratches. Intersestingly the Raiders will be without two key players themselves as both starting corners have been ruled out of the game.
While there was hope for a return to the lineup by both Polamalu and Harrison, Steeler coach Mike Tomlin was confident with the players who would be their replacements.
“They are potential assets to us, but as you know we focus on the guys that are healthy and preparing,” Tomlin said. “We intend to do that this week with the guys that are going to play, potentially in their place in Chris Carter and Ryan Mundy who have done a solid job for us to this point.”
Mundy will once again take Polamalu’s place, earning his third start in as many games. He played for Ryan Clark in Denver. Carter for a third consecutive game will replace Harrison, who had surgery on his knee back in August and has not played a game yet this season.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen said that even without the two Pro Bowlers, the two backups are going to pose a challenge considering their play the past two weeks. He called it the scheme.
“They’ve played good defense without those guys playing so we have to prepare to play the Pittsburgh Steelers defense whoever they put out there, the 11 guys they put out there,’ Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Friday. “ They’ll put 11 quality guys out there and we’ll have a challenge trying to meet that.
“I think we’ve got to prepare for the scheme think we’ve got to understand where those guys are going to fit within the scheme. They’ve got very capable backups. They played well last week. It’s going to be a challenge to face that defense regardless of whether those two guys play or not.”
Rashard Mendenhall has also been ruled out for the game Sunday, while tight end Heath Miller is listed as probable after missing all week with a rib cage injury. The only other scratch for Pittsburgh is linebacker Stevenson Sylvester.
Isaac Redman will get the start in place of Mendenhall again.
The Steelers top wide out Mike Wallace (groin) will likely see the field as will Emmanual Sanders ( knee). Running back Jonathan Dwyer, who has been a surprise out of the backfield is also listed as probable even though he still has a case of turf toe. He did practice on Friday.
Tackle Mike Adams is questionable for the game as he’s been out with back spasm problems.
The Raiders also have their problems on defense this weekend. Sunday, they may be without both of their starting cornerbacks, not a good predicament when facing Ben Roethlisberger and all his weapons.
“I think we have a pretty good plan for what we’re going to do and how we’re going to try to attack that position,” Allen said. “We’ll be ready on Sunday come anything that comes our way.”
Ron Bartell has a shoulder injury and has not played because of it since the opener, and now Shawntae Spencer who has not practiced all week has been ruled out as he is on crutches and in a boot.
Middle linebacker Rolando McClain did not practice on Friday, but still has not been ruled out. Also not practicing for the Raiders on Friday was running back Mike Goodson and tackle Khalif Barnes who will not play in the game.
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Matt Pawlikowski is a veteran journalist covering all things Steelers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.