While Raiders great Phil Villapiano escorts hated Steelers Hall of Famer Franco Harris into the Black Hole, the Raiders will try and build on their performance a week ago when they host Pittsburgh.
The Oakland Raiders found a running game last week in a 40-33 loss to the Chiefs and a strong effort against one of the best teams in the conference shows that they haven’t completely mailed it in on the season.
So much for the “tanking it” philosophy.
This week, the Pittsburgh Steers come into Oakland-Alameda County Stadium looking to bounce back from a loss to the Los Angeles (still doesn’t have the ring San Diego does) Chargers in which they squandered a 16-point lead.
“We are looking at the Pittsburgh Steelers, that’s all we are doing,” coach Jon Gruden said Monday at his weekly press conference. “I’m really proud of our team. We fought back …and made it 33-30 in the fourth quarter. We got them 3rd-and-5, we get a stop and we jump offsides.
“We gave Kansas City too many mulligans. We fumbled the ball to them three times. We had a fourth-and-one called back, and we gave them first downs by jumping offsides. We are not looking ahead to anything except the Pittsburgh Steelers. I can assure you that, at least on our side of the building.”
The Steelers come into Oakland with a high-flying offense led by Ben Roethlisberger and receivers Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster. Even without starting back James Conner, the Raiders defense will be challenged to stop Pittsburgh, which is ranked fourth overall in the league in offense and second in passing.
On offense, Doug Martin and Jalen Richard combined for 156 yards against the Chiefs, but fumbled three times. Jared Cook caught seven passes for 100 yards and a touchdown while Derek Carr passed for 285 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. It was Carr’s seventh-straight game without throwing a pick as he continues to look more comfortable in Gruden’s offense.
The Steelers defense is ranked seventh overall, eight overall in both rushing and passing defense. They have a strong defensive front led by T.J. Watt and Cameron Hayward.
Besides Conner being out, the Steelers had two players who didn’t participate in practice Wednesday: linebacker Anthony Chickillo (ankle) and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (knee).
For the Raiders, linebacker Kyle Wilber (hamstring) didn’t practice on Wednesday, although seven players were listed as limited.
Pittsburgh opened as a 13-point favorite, but that number has since dropped to 10.5. The total opened at 51.5 points and has remained steady on Thursday.