The Pittsburgh Steelers pack up for a Week 7 trip to face their old nemesis, the Oakland Raiders. Both the Raiders and Steelers are fighting to revive their seasons after their 2-4 starts have them at the bottom of the AFC.
The Raiders are well-rested coming off the bye week while the Steelers head to the Black Hole with a list of injuries following another physical matchup with the Ravens. But those injuries don’t seem to hurt quite as bad when you are on a two-game win streak.
Winning also smoothes over the rough spots like:
· An offensive line allowing 21 sacks
· Ben Roethlisberger’s five interceptions
· A red-zone offense which has scored in just six touchdowns in 16 possessions (only Jacksonville is worse)
· A 27th-best rushing offense that has scored only two rushing TDs this year
· A defense that has forced only two turnovers, the lowest number in the NFL
· Only the New York Giants (six) have recorded fewer sacks then the Steelers’ eight
Will the Steelers’ winning momentum also be enough to overcome the long flight to the west coast? Pittsburgh has squandered away victories in both of its recent trips to Oakland.
Last year, the Steelers wasted a 384-yard passing day from Roethlisberger in a 31-34 loss. In 2006, Roethlisberger’s four interceptions paved the way to victory for the Raiders, despite the fact quarterback Andrew Walter threw for a ridiculous 51 yards on the day.
Fortunately, the depressing 2012 loss remains an open wound for the Steelers and coach Mike Tomlin. Tomlin knows the Steelers’ warts have been known to flare up in Oakland, and he must prepare to counter the jet lag – and the jets of Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor is dangerous once out of the pocket. He leads Oakland’s ninth-ranked rushing offense with 285 yards. The Steelers did a good job in shutting down dual-threat QB Geno Smith of the Jets in Week 6. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and secondary coach Carnell Lake beat Smith by covering up his receiving options, allowing the line to get pressure (Smith threw two INTs).
They will need to get the same type of game to contain Pryor and force him to make mistakes. Since being named starter, Pryor has done a better-than-expected job protecting the ball, until he faced the 3-4 defense of the Kansas City Chiefs. Pryor tossed three of his five interceptions and was sacked nine times against the 7-0 Chiefs.
The winner of this long-contested matchup will be one step closer to recovery. And in a season that is far from over, it could be the start of a season revival.