Live Free Picks
Home Of 500 Handicappers
Where: O.co Coliseum, Oakland, California
Troy Polamalu and James Harrison may not be available yet again for the Pittsburgh Steelers when they travel to Oakland to face the Raiders on Sunday. It may not matter. Oakland, led by first-year coach Dennis Allen, is off to another ugly start. The Raiders were gashed for 263 rushing yards in a 35-13 loss to the rebuilding Miami Dolphins last week.
The Steelers, on the other hand, avoided their first 0-2 start in a decade Sunday with an impressive 27-10 win over the New York Jets despite missing their two defensive stars. Ben Roethlisberger, who’s having great success in Todd Haley’s new offense, completed a pass to 10 different receivers. This will be the first trip to Oakland since 2006 for Pittsburgh, which rolled to a 35-3 win in the most recent meeting in 2010.
ABOUT THE STEELERS (1-1): Pittsburgh’s defense was no worse for the wear without Polamalu and Harrison against the Jets. Polamalu, the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year, sat out with a calf injury, but Ryan Clark’s return helped the Steelers hold Mark Sanchez to 138 passing yards and the Jets to just 219 total yards. Pittsburgh will reportedly hold Polamalu and Harrison (knee surgery) out again with a bye on the horizon. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger thrived against a Jets secondary missing Darrelle Revis and finished 24-of-31 for 275 yards and a pair of scores. Antonio Brown caught seven passes for 79 yards and Mike Wallace, who’s making his way back into shape after a lengthy contract squabble, made an amazing catch for a 37-yard touchdown that put the Steelers in command. Pittsburgh’s running game, minus Rashard Mendenhall, continues to scuffle but could benefit from facing the Raiders’ porous run defense.
ABOUT THE RAIDERS (0-2): Oakland was inexplicably bad against a below-average Dolphins’ team last week. It’s clear that a regime change hasn’t helped fix the leaky rushing defense. After finishing 27th against the run last season (136.1 ypg), Oakland is currently 28th (147.5). Reggie Bush tore into them for 172 yards and two touchdowns last week. Adding to their woes is the fact that LB Rolando McClain may be forced to sit out due to a concussion. What’s worse, Darren McFadden (2.1 ypc) has struggled mightily on the other side of the ball and the Raiders are averaging a league-worst 2.0 yards per carry. McFadden is tied for the most catches (15) in the AFC, but that’s a by-product of Carson Palmer (670 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) throwing the second-most passes (94) in the league, most of which are dump-offs.
1. “I had a lot of emotion. It was my first game since the Cleveland game last year that I played in that meant anything.” – Clark, on missing the playoff game against Denver last season and the opener this year against the Broncos due to sickle cell trait.
2. Harrison (58) needs three sacks to pass Keith Willis (59) and Joey Porter (60) for second place in franchise history.
3. The Raiders are one of three teams (Vikings, Saints) without a takeaway.