Raiders vs steelers
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

 

New FSM Game Preview: Raiders vs Steelers – Week 16

Las Vegas Raiders (6-8) | Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8)

Franchise Sports Media

 

Exactly 50 years since the “Immaculate Reception,” the Raiders and Steelers will tussle in a Christmas Eve contest for postseason contention. To thicken the plot, Saturday’s game comes in the wake of Steelers HOF RB Franco Harris’ death.

 

Raiders vs Steelers                
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

We can only dwell on Chandler Jones stiff-arming Mac Jones into the earth for so long; It’s time to proceed (for now). When previewing the 2022 schedule over the offseason, I knew there could be much on the line at the Week 16 marker. Not only would the Raiders be tasked with traveling to the frigid banks of the Three Rivers in late December, but they’d be pitted against one of their oldest rivals: The Pittsburgh Steelers. And here we are now.

Of course, neither side has taken the league by storm this season. Las Vegas has largely underperformed while Pittsburgh is working out the kinks of transitioning to a rookie quarterback. With that said, both the Raiders and Steelers still have (dependent) playoff hopes. Whoever loses this matchup on Saturday will have those slim hopes extinguished.

With Christmas Eve serving as the holiday backdrop for the AFC clash, it will undoubtedly add a distinguished new chapter to the Raiders-Steelers storied rivalry. All time, the Raiders hold the upper hand in the overall series, 17-13. These rivals last met in Week 2 of the 2021 season at then-Heinz Field, wherein Las Vegas emerged victorious. But with Big Ben since retired and a new era underway in Steel City, what will we see this Saturday night?

It was announced earlier in the week (Tuesday) that QB Kenny Pickett had cleared concussion protocol and is in line to start against the Raiders on Christmas Eve. Worth mentioning the Pitt-turned-Pittsburgh signal-caller has only attempted one pass this month. Pickett may need a series or two to shake off the rust. Then on Wednesday morning, the somber news of HOF RB Franco Harris’ passing began to circulate the airwaves. To make things darkly ironic, Harris, most known for propelling the “Immaculate Reception” play in the Raiders-Steelers playoff game exactly 50 years ago, was set to have his jersey retired at Saturday’s game. RIP to an all-time great.

Let’s dive in…

 

Previous contests

 

HOF game: Raiders 27 – Jaguars 11
PRE1: Raiders 26 – Vikings 20
PRE2: Raiders 15 – Dolphins 13

PRE3: Raiders 23 – Patriots 6

WK1: Chargers 24 – Raiders 19 (L)
WK2: Cardinals 29 – Raiders 23 (OT)/(L)
WK3: Titans 24 – Raiders 22 (L)
WK4: Raiders 32 – Broncos 23 (W)
WK5: Chiefs 30 – Raiders 29 (L)
WK6: BYE
WK7: Raiders 38 – Texans 20 (W)

WK8: Saints 24 – Raiders 0 (L)
WK9: Jaguars 27 – Raiders 20 (L)
WK10: Colts 25 – Raiders 20 (L)
WK11: Raiders 22 – Broncos 16 (OT)/(W)
WK12: Raiders 40 – Seahawks 34 (OT)/(W)
WK13: Raiders 27 – Chargers 20 (W)
WK14: Rams 17 – Raiders 16 (L)
WK15: Raiders 30 – Patriots 24 (W)

 

KEYS TO THE GAME:

 

Welcome Pickett back to action

 

Raiders vs Steelers
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

As just mentioned, Pittsburgh’s first-year signal caller Kenny Pickett is coming back from missing the last two games with a concussion. So far in 2022, he has made ten appearances behind nine starts, sporting a 4-8 TD-INT ratio. With a current rating of 74.9 (compared to Derek Carr’s 89.2), Pickett falls in the bottom third of NFL starting quarterbacks.

With Pickett returning to extremely frigid conditions, I highly doubt he will come out shooting lasers around the field. Crosby, Jones, and company will be key on the Raiders’ defensive side to ensure they are there to disorient Pickett further.

 

Creative playcalling

I firmly believe this is a game wherein Josh McDaniels can prove his worth to Raider Nation. With the freezing game conditions as they are, and with the Steelers’ defense tightening up since T.J. Watt’s return, the Raiders will need to do more than simply lean on RB Josh Jacobs. More than any other game this year, it will be key for McDaniels to utilize his deep running back room while getting the ball to the receivers in shorter, YAC situations. Of course, Carr will also need to hold up his end, taking care of the football and getting rid of it quickly and accurately.

 

Coaching matchup

 

Raiders vs Steelers                
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

McDaniels vs. Mike Tomlin is an interesting clash of guys who have spent years operating in the NFL’s most respected franchises. Tomlin, who has been the Steelers’ head coach since 2007, has never produced a losing season (160-93). Basically, McDaniels and the Raiders have the chance to be the first team ever to hand Tomlin his ninth loss in any regular season. Of course, Tomlin has a championship pedigree of his own; His first four years at the helm saw the Steelers make two Super Bowl appearances, winning the prized Lombardi Trophy in 2009.

Although I like Las Vegas’ chances overall in this game, I would lean toward Pittsburgh and Tomlin for the coaching advantage. His unrivaled consistency and ability to adjust through the late weeks of a season give Mike T. the edge.

 

INJURY REPORT:

 

Below are Thursday’s (Dec. 22) practice participation sheets for the Raiders and Steelers:

Las Vegas – G Alex Bars (Limited – Knee), T Jackson Barton (Limited – Back), DT Andrew Billings (Limited – Fibula), LB Darien Butler (Limited – Quad), OL Jermaine Eluemunor (Full – Wrist), S Duron Harmon (Full – Shoulder/neck), G Dylan Parham (Limited – Knee), RB Zamir White (Limited – Ankle), CB Rock Ya-Sin (DNP – Knee).

Pittsburgh – QB Kenny Pickett (Full – Concussion), DB Josh Jackson (DNP – Ankle), WR Diontae Johnson (DNP – Toe), RB Najee Harris (Full – Hip), S Terrell Edmunds (DNP – Hamstring), FB Derek Watt (Full – Ankle), LB Myles Jack (Full – Groin), TE Pat Freiermuth (Full – Foot), DL Larry Ogunjobi (DNP – Toe), WR George Pickens (DNP – Illness).


WEATHER REPORT:

Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA lies at the trisection of the Allegheny, Ohio, and Monogahela (Three) Rivers. It being late December, a cold snap is currently sitting over much of the Midwestern United States. For Saturday night’s game, there is no precipitation in the forecast, but temperatures will drop into the single digits after kickoff. The wind will be a prevalent factor as well, with speeds reaching 20 MPH. If you’re headed to the game, bundle up and bring extra cardboard to place under your feet. By far, this will be the Raiders‘ coldest game of the 2022 season.

 

On Xmas Eve, the Raiders will embark on “Steel City” for their final road trip of the 2022 regular season. Pitting the Silver & Black against the Black & Yellow always brings out physical play, and this holiday rendition of Raiders-Steelers should be no different. In a primetime window, kickoff is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 24, at 5:15 pm PST and will be televised on NFL Network and Fox 5 (local radio play-by-play on RNR AM920).

 

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-Gabe Santiago – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Gabe on Twitter & Instagram at @gps_onthemic

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