Raiders vs steelers
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

 

FSM Game Preview: Raiders vs Steelers – Week 2

Franchise Sports Media

 

After a thrilling victory on Monday Night Football, the Raiders must turn their attention to another AFC North team. The Silver and Black travel cross country to take on one of thier most bitter rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

Raiders vs Steelers
Photo Credit: Pro Football Hall of Fame

A historic rivalry is renewed in week 2 of the NFL season when the Las Vegas Raiders take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Both teams ride into this match with momentum from their Week 1 victories, as the Steelers beat the Bills in Buffalo while the Raiders won against the Ravens in Las Vegas.

Dating back to their first meeting in 1970, the two iconic franchises have met on the gridiron a total of 29 times, with the Raiders holding a 16-13 all-time lead in wins and loses. During the regular season, the Raiders are 13-10 against the Steelers, while they are 3-3 against one another in the postseason.

The two teams did battle for five straight postseasons (1972-76), which is an NFL record that still stands. In 1972, the Immaculate Reception by Steelers running back Franco Harris, still debated to this day on if the ball touched the ground or not (we don’t think he caught it, for the record), is what really kicked this bitter, fierce, hard-hitting rivalry into gear. The Raiders are one of only four teams in the NFL to hold a winning record over the Steelers (Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots being the other three). Still, the Steelers have doubled their Super Bowl trophies over the Raiders, leading 6-3.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is 2-4 against the Raiders while Jon Gruden is 1-1 against Pittsburgh. These teams last met in 2018 with the Raiders winning 24-21. Both enter this game 1-0 on the season as the Steelers are in for their home opener after an impressive win over a team in the Bills that many have penciled in as the second-best team in the AFC behind the Kansas City Chiefs.

 

The key to this match-up will be can the Raiders continue making adjustments to their offensive line to hold off this vaunted Steelers defense.

 

Raiders vs Steelers
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

The Raiders entered the 2021 NFL season knowing they were gonna have to see how their offensive line would hold up with three new starters. Now it seems it may be four new starters they’d have to put out against one of the best defensive fronts in the league. Left guard Richie Incognito missed the season opener with a right calf injury which leaves his availability for this match-up in the air.

The Raiders will now be without their new starting right guard Denzelle Good, who tore his ACL against the Ravens. Despite the injury, Good returned to the game to play but ultimately was pulled and didn’t return.

Stepping in for Good at right guard will be Jermaine Eluemunor, who showed against the Ravens some solid strength and aggression on blocks. Now armed with four new starters, one who came into the season as a back and right tackle Alex Leatherwood as a rookie, the Raiders have their hands full once again trying to protect their quarterback Derek Carr and provide running lanes for their running backs.

It won’t be a walk in the park against the Steelers. Pittsburgh, as usual, presents a stout front on the defensive side, and it didn’t take long to showcase their pass rush abilities on the season. In week 1, they generated 19 pressures as a defensive line, 11 of which came within 2.5 seconds of the snap. TJ Watt showed off why he got the new giant contract he signed during the offseason applying 6 pressures with two sacks, while newcomer Melvin Ingram earned five pressures. Big man Cameron Hayward alone had 10 pressures and a sack. This is just from the team’s defensive line. This is what the Raiders will have to deal with come Sunday.

But while the Raiders’ offensive line will have their hands full with the Steelers’ defensive line, the same could be said for the Steelers with the Raiders’ d-line. The Steelers have a revamped offensive front that didn’t generate the type of push in the run game we’ve become accustomed to seeing from the Yellow and Black. So while they make their adjustments and get more experience week by week, they will have to deal with a new look and energized Raiders defensive front who lived in the backfield against the Ravens on Monday Night.

Maxx Crosby wreaked havoc with 2 sacks, while Quinton Jefferson and Carl Nassib both had forced fumbles, Nassib’s being the one in overtime to help secure the victory. Newly signed Yannick Ngakoue dealt with an injury in the game but was able to generate pressure and provided a solid one-two combination opposite of Crosby on the line. Under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, the Raiders were able to show that while not there yet, they are making the strides necessary to be a competitive defensive unit that will get after the quarterback and be aggressive in their approach, which could be troublesome for this new look Steelers offensive line.

 

Now while we might get a defensive showdown, the offensive side of the ball will look to put up points on the board.

 

Raiders vs Steelers
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Steelers’ rookie running back Najee Harris struggled in his first NFL game (earning just 45 yards on the ground), but the Steelers have a wide receiver unit that can hurt you all over the field. A group of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson have shown whether it’s underneath routes or over-the-top big plays, they can hurt you in several different ways. This receiving corps can provide the spark needed to get this offense going led by 38-year old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

But they aren’t the only ones who can do damage, as the Raiders continue to show they can score on just about anyone in the league. Carr threw for over 400 yards in the air with a pair of touchdowns, and tight end Darren Waller continued his elite showing with 10 catches for over 100 yards and a score.

The run game wasn’t as effective, mainly due to Josh Jacobs dealing with an illness and slight injury. But still, Jacobs managed to find the end zone twice. With versatile weapons such as Hunter Renfrow, Kenyan Drake, and Zay Jones and young guns Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards, the Raiders are more than willing and capable of going toe to toe offensively with anyone they step on the field with.

 

An old rivalry gets some new blood injected to it as someones “0” has got to go.

 

While the players are new, the intensity from both franchises in this rivalry runs deep, and both sides understand the situation. Not only do they both want to remain undefeated, but Pittsburgh wants to protect its house, while Las Vegas wants to show they can win on the east coast. In addition, both want to add to their wins over one another.

Led by Super Bowl-winning coaches, the Raiders v Steelers will be a clash of two of the franchises that help build the NFL into what it’s become. But, it’ll also be a battle of similar teams still searching for respect. The Steelers want to show that they aren’t too old to still be amongst the elite in the league, while the Raiders want to climb their way back into postseason contention and bring new life into a beloved franchise. Yellow and Black vs Silver and Black, it’s gonna be a good one.

 

The Raiders and Steelers are scheduled to kickoff Sunday at 10 am in Pittsburgh. CBS will be televising the game, check local listings for the channel number.

 

 

 

-Kalani Lua – Franchise Sports Media

 

Follow Kalani on Twitter @klua11

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