The Oakland Raiders take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field Sunday as an old rivalry with recent chapters is rekindled. Each week, I pose five questions heading into the next matchup. Here are this week's queries.
1. Will the Raiders continue their mastery of Ben Roethlisberger?
The Raiders are 4-1 against Big Ben but have only defeated him once in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger's lone win came in 2010, a 31-3 win at Heinz Field, a year after Pittsburgh-native Bruce Gradkowski came home and tossed three fourth quarter TD passes including the game-winner with :09 left.
2. Can the Raiders contain Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown?
The NFL's 2014 leading receiver has 52 catches for a whopping 718 yards receiving this season. He is arguably one of the most dangerous receivers after the catch. The Raiders will need to keep him in front of them and be sure tacklers.
- Will the Steelers be able to run the ball on the Raiders? **
The Steelers lost running back Le'Veon Bell for the season with a knee injury suffered last week. Ten-year veteran DeAngelo Williams is no slouch and has experienced a resurgence with Pittsburgh. He is averaging 4.9 yards per carry this season. However, the Raiders boast the second-best run defense in the National Football League and shut down the Jets vaunted rushing attack last week.
4. Will the Raiders continue their fast starts?
The last two weeks the Raiders have gotten off to very fast starts on offense and defense. An interception on the Chargers first possession set up 1st and goal and a touchdown two weeks ago. The Raiders jumped out to a 30-6 halftime lead in San Diego. The Raiders led 21-6 at halftime against the Jets last week. It will be imperative for the Raiders to jump on the Steelers early in perhaps the most hostile environment they've experienced yet.
5. Which offensive player's big statistical game leads to victory?
The Raiders have won when Derek Carr throws for more than 300 yards. The only exception is 289 in the win over San Diego. Running Latavius Murray has rushed for more than 100 yards in two of the Raiders four wins. Rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper has surpassed 100 yards receiving in three of the Raiders four wins, wide receiver Michael Crabtree did it last week. At one point you could say "when Cooper goes over 100, the Raiders win," or if Carr throws for more than 300, the Raiders win.
Bonus: Can the Raiders win three in a row?
The Raiders haven't won three in a row since the 2011 campaign when the team finished 8-8.