The last time the Raiders and Steelers faced each other, there was an inordinate amount of mouth-punching. The Raiders defense was figuratively punched in the mouth by Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns. In return, Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour threw a literal punch to the mouth of Roethlisberger for reasons unknown.
We can see the progression of the play above: Seymour pulls his arm down at a 35-degree angle, then extends through the mouth of Roethlisberger. Then, Big Ben dropped faster than Joe Lacob’s popularity at a Chris Mullins’ retirement ceremony.
If the Raiders continue their play of the previous two weeks, we could see Seymour dial this up again. For the sake of Roethlisberger’s jaw and attention-spans everywhere, let’s hope this game is competitive.
Why They’ll Win
The match-up is in the Raiders’ favor–statistically, at least. Pittsburgh is no longer the dominant force it was just a few years ago. According to Football Outsiders, the Steelers have a DVOA of 19.8%, which essentially means offenses fare 19.8% better than against an average defense. Though their run defense is average, the Steelers pass defense is one of the league’s worst (DVOA of 44.5%). Remove Troy Polamalu and James Harrison from the equation and Carson Palmer should have a career game.
While on the subject of Palmer, it’s worth pointing out that he is having his best season since 2007. Granted, it’s been only two games and any conclusions drawn would be based on too small of a sample size, but against a weaker secondary like Pittsburgh’s, Palmer should show well.
Why They’ll Lose
Whenever I utter the words “should show well” in regards to the Raiders, I instinctively know disappointment is on the horizon. The Raiders have simply been outcoached in the past two weeks. There is now way around that. The offensive line is ranked 31st by Football Outsiders, with an Adjusted Line Yardage of only 2.18–which is staggering given that the Raiders had one of the best lines in the league last year. Though offensive coordinator Greg Knapp begs for patience, it is apparent that his coaching staff has been unable to effectively and efficiently teach his scheme.
Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has faired no better. His secondary and linebacking corps looked absolutely unprepared for the Miami Dolphins last sunday. The Raiders pass defense has a DVOA of 27.2%, good for 24th worst. Until the Raiders prove they can win a game, it’s all too easy to pick against them.
Who We’re Taking
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5) @ Oakland Raiders
Bay Area Sports Guy: If the Raiders are going to look like a halfway decent NFL team, it probably won’t happen until the second half of the season. As EBSG pointed out, their zone blocking scheme is going to take a while to figure out. The Steelers’ offense is pretty stagnant, mostly because they can’t run much without Rashard Mendenhall (out again this week), but I don’t see how the Raiders manage more than 14 points in this game. Pick: Steelers
East Bay Sports Guy: One question: Who is going to cover Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown? The Raiders will be without Ronald Bartell and Shawntae Spencer, leaving Joselio Hansen, Pat Lee, and Michael Huff to pick up the slack. We saw what a lesser tandem of Ryan Tannehill and Brian Hartline could do against a depleted Raiders defense last week. I shudder to think of what Big Ben will do. Pick: Steelers
Bay Area Stats Guy: I don’t like road favorites very much, it is just plain hard to win on the road and then to have to beat the spread too, that is often enough to make me take the home team. This is no different. I like the Steelers to win but the projection model says that it is likely to be 3 points or less. Pick: Raiders
Ruthless Sports Guy: This line isn’t giving enough respect to the Steelers. The Raiders are BAD. Like dredges of the league, 2013 number one overall bad. Sorry Raiders fans – Steelers roll Oakland to an 0-3 start. Pick: Steelers
Bay Area Duck Guy: The Raiders burned me last week when I put faith in them at home against Miami. After that, how can I put faith in them against a better Steelers team? I can’t. But watch, with my luck, Oakland will put together a great game against Pittsburgh and win the game. So, for the sake of Oakland fans, I’m picking the Steelers. Pick: Steelers