Let’s take a look at three things Raider Nation should be keeping their eyes on as the Pittsburgh Steelers come to the Oakland Coliseum to take on the Raiders this Sunday:
The Raiders did enough to beat the Kansas City Chiefs last week had they not lost three costly fumbles that turned into 13 points for their opponents. Running backs coach Jamal Singleton will be emphasizing ball security ad nauseam in meetings this week, especially given that all three runners (Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington) each lost a fumble on the ground.
The Raiders have also signed C.J. Anderson to bolster their running back corps. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Anderson suit up this week in place of Washington, who has averaged only three yards per carry over the last three games. Anderson is only 27 years old and had his first 1000-yard season last year with the Denver Broncos. He was expected to play a bigger role in Carolina this season but took a seat on the pine once Christian McCaffrey took the load. While Anderson may not be a true starter, he could provide another solid option and an upgrade to what the Raiders have now.
The Raiders were in position on numerous occasions against the Chiefs to force turnovers but were unable to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. Ben Roethlisberger may be a gunslinger, but he also throws up a ton of 50-50 balls which give the defense a chance to make plays. Gareon Conley has been stellar in coverage over the last month, though Roethlisberger will no doubt test him early in this matchup. Conley very well could have a pick if he continues his improvement on the outside.
Fortunately for the Raiders, the Steelers don’t have a true playmaking tight end that is near a threat as Chiefs Travis Kelce, so they should be able to double receivers Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster to create favorable matchups.
Limiting Steelers Passing Game
The Steelers offense is one of the most explosive in the league, though it will miss starting running back James Conner due to a lower leg injury. Conner has been one of the best runners in the league and has enabled the Steelers offense to be truly multi-dimensional. Backup Jaylon Samuels and Stevan Ridley are nowhere near as talented, so the Raiders may finally have a matchup this season which they should feel good about to stop the run. This will force the Steelers to go pass happy and, although that may be considered dangerous given the plethora of weapons at their arsenal, it’s a better matchup for Oakland’s defense. Despite the lack of a pass rush, the Raiders secondary has been stepping up their play over the last month and it’s showing on the field. Sunday will be a good test for them to see exactly where they stand heading into 2019. In particular, watch to see if Rashaan Melvin ‘travels’ and covers Antonio Brown for the entire game as he did last season as an Indianapolis Colt with much success. A big game from Melvin to shutdown Brown will not only do the Raiders chances of success a lot of good, but it so too will improve his chances at getting paid in free agency this upcoming March.