Originally published on SBReport.net on Sept. 21, 2012
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen is still looking for his first regular-season victory as an NFL head coach.
Already 0-2, the Raiders play host to a tough Pittsburgh Steelers team with a stout defense and an offense lead by All-Pro quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
To the Raiders benefit, it appears that the Steelers defense will be without two of its top playmakers in safety Troy Polamalu (calf) and linebacker James Harrison (knee).
The Steelers stingy defense is allowing a stingy 276.5 yards per game so far, good for seventh in the NFL.
The departure of Polamalu is beneficial to Raiders running back Darren McFadden who has struggled to find any running room through two games.
McFadden has totaled a measly 54 yards on 26 carries. McFadden’s numbers are a problem for any offense, but especially in an offense that depends on the rushing attack for play-action calls like offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s does.
Knapp’s offense has struggled to find the endzone, scoring just two touchdowns through two weeks of play. One of those touchdowns occurred late in the season opener against the San Diego Chargers.
The Raiders will need to get McFadden going to relieve some pressure off starting quarterback Carson Palmer and the offensive line.
Having come from the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North division, Palmer is familiar with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Palmer has faced the Steelers 12 times and come up with just four victories.
Palmer needs to be quick with his reads and fine the open receiver to avoid sacks against a Steelers defense that enjoys getting in the opposing quarterback’s face.
Palmer has been able to avoid the interceptions for the most part, with the exception to a bad throw towards the end of last week’s rout by the Dolphins. Palmer will have to keep track of safety Ryan Clark at all times as he has a knack of always being around the ball.
Second-year wide receiver Denarius Moore returned to the field last week after missing much of training camp with a hamstring injury. Moore hauled in three receptions for 67 yards.
Moore is capable of making the big play down the field that the Raiders have not found yet this season.
Oakland’s injury list has been quite lengthy this week, with the biggest problems occurring on the defensive side of the ball.
The Raiders are without both of their starting cornerbacks Shawntae Spencer (foot) and Ron Bartell (shoulder). Oakland will have to use patch work moving forward at the corner position, at least until their starters return.
Pittsburgh’s speedy wide receivers will no doubt be a tough matchup against the Raiders patched up secondary. Wide receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown both possess big-play capabilities.
Oakland also needs to keep an eye on veteran tight end Heath Miller, a favorite of Roethlisberger, especially on third down.
Oakland has struggled to get off the field on third downs, allowing their opponent to complete the third-down conversion 14 out of 30 attempts thus far. The task doesn’t get any easier this week as the Steelers have completed the highest percentage of third downs in the league. Pittsburgh has gained the first down 19 out of 34 tries.
One of the biggest letdowns of the young season has been the play of the Raiders defensive line. The talented defensive line was thought to be a strength of the team but has only been able to record two sacks so far.
There’s no doubt that the defensive line will have to not only apply pressure on Big Ben, but also limit his ability to scramble to relieve their hurting secondary.
Oakland leads the all-time record against the Steelers 10-9, including a win for the Raiders in week seven of the 2006 season, the last time Pittsburgh came to Oakland. The victory that year was just one of two on the season for the Raiders.
OUT: T Khalif Barnes (groin), CB Shawntae Spencer (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: TE David Ausberry (shoulder), CB Coye Francies (concussion), RB Mike Goodson (hamstring), K Sebastian Janikowski (left groin), RB Taiwan Jones (ribs), LB Rolando McClain (concussion, ankle), C Alex Parsons (shoulder), DT Richard Seymour (knee)
PROBABLE: WR Juron Criner (ankle)
OUT: LB James Harrison (knee), RB Rashard Mendenhall (knee), S Troy Polamalu (calf), LB Stevenson Sylvester (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: T Mike Adams (back)
PROBABLE: RB Jonathan Dwyer (toe), T Marcus Gilbert (groin), QB Byron Leftwich (illness), TE Heath Miller (abdomen), WR Emmanuel Sanders (knee), WR Mike Wallace (groin)