The Pittsburgh Steelers will make the lengthy trip to Oakland for a 4:25 ET start with the Raiders. This is an important spot for the Steelers, they lost a disappointing one to the Broncos in week 1 and looked fairly impressive last week against the Jets at home. There are doubts among many if the Steelers should be considered among the elite. I don’t think a win over the Jets, or a win here against the Raiders will clear anything up, but a loss would be devastating against an inferior Raiders squad. The Raiders look like an absolute mess in all facets of the game. In week 1 they put up a valiant effort to stop the Chargers offense, but the offense sputtered. With the dysfunctional Dolphins on deck for week 2, one would think they would have gotten on track. All the Raiders did is get torched defensively, and for consecutive weeks couldn’t muster up any offense. They will need to figure things out quickly, especially offensively, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If you were to just look at Carson Palmer’s passing yards for the game versus Ryan Tannehill’s you would come to the conclusion that the Raiders won in a blowout. After all, Palmer passed for 373 yards and Tannehill posted only 200 yards. The Dolphins were the ones doing the Raiders out, though, 35-13. The passing game isn’t what is supposed to win games for the Raiders, the running game is supposed to control the clock and work through Darren McFadden. Needless to say this didn’t come to fruition in week 2. McFadden was only given 11 carries, rushing for a paltry 22 yards. Palmer connected with ten different receivers, but they found it difficult to conclude drives successfully. Even against a stiff rush defense, I expect the Raiders to try and get back to their forte with Darren McFadden. Becoming one dimensional against the Steelers is a recipe for disaster. If they want to go with the same game plan as last week, Palmer is going to be pressured into mistakes all afternoon.
The Raiders need to employ an above average defense and average offense to find success this season. Neither is really on course to fulfilling that. Both of those were on display last week against the Dolphins. Reggie Bush had a career day, rushing for 172 yards on 26 carries. With Rashard Mendenhall sitting on the sidelines for the third straight week, the Raiders will catch a break in that regard. Backup Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman will assume running back duties, but Dwyer is nursing a bad toe. The defensive line is supposed to be their strong suit, so it will be interesting to see how they respond at home against a limping Steelers running game. The defense played pretty well against the Chargers, so it was baffling to see them get torched the way they did in Miami.
The Steelers defense looked completely out of sync in Denver. The Mile High has become a house of horrors of sorts for them lately. If you recall, Tim Tebow did the same thing against the Steelers defense last year in the playoffs. The following week they responded in a big way, limiting the Jets to 10 points. Mark Sanchez went an embarrassing 10-27 from the field, passing for only 138 yards. The only sustainable drive the Jets had was early in the first quarter. Order was restored in Pittsburgh for a week after getting hit hard by Manning and company. I expect the best defense from a year ago to build off of last week and limit the Raiders. James Harrison and Troy Polamalu will once again be absent this week, but Polamalu has had a tough time staying healthy these last couple years and the defense has continued to produce. Polamalu played in the Broncos game and the defense looked out of character, last week he was on the sidelines and they looked like a top unit again. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice to have him in there, but the Steelers are a defense that can still get the job done. Polamalu’s counterpart, Ryan Clark, has turned into quite the player and has done a fine job with the Steelers the last two seasons.
Falcons vs. Chargers Spread and Betting Odds:
Pittsburgh Steelers -4.5 (-105)
@ Oakland Raiders +4.5 (-115)
Over 45.5 (-110)
Under 45.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Steelers vs. Raiders Pick:
This is one of those lines that will leave you scratching your head. I’m sure many of you were expecting to see a -6.5 or -7 in this spot. The Raiders got slaughtered by quite possible the worst team in the league last year and the Steelers cruised to a victory over the Jets. It would only make sense to take the Steelers on a short line, right? The last time the Steelers and Raiders played in Oakland in 2009 it was the same situation, people were left wondering why the books through out such a short number on the Steelers. The Raiders ended up taking the lead with seconds remaining to win 27-24. I remember it well because I had the Steelers ML in a parlay. In 2006 the Raiders had the Steelers number at home as well, beating them 20-13.
The more attractive bet to me here is on the total. I think after getting absolutely trounced last week in Miami the Oakland defense will play much better in front of their home crowd. There a number of banged up Steelers not only on the defensive side, but the injury report for the offense doesn’t look great either. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is listed as doubtful and his backup Jonathan Dwyer has an injured toe but is listed as probable. As well as the running backs, the offensive line is dinged up as well. Tackles Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert have been limited in practice this week. Tight end Heath Miller was kept out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday as well. Miller should play, albeit through plenty of pain. The Raiders are going to want to get Darren McFadden clicking after a below average performance last week, but the Steelers front-seven should keep him in check. McFadden is only averaging 2.1 yards per carry. I’ll take the under with a small lean to the Raiders. A 20-17 type of game seems reasonable here.
PICK = UNDER 45.5