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Raiders Mailbag: Can the Raiders' defensive line keep up the pressure in Pittsburgh?


@hichrisjones asks...

"We already know depth at all positions is key. Which player(s) should we keep an eye out to surprise us all?"

I'm not trying to let to let any cats out the bag, but I would continue to watch out for the Raiders' young secondary. Primarily rookies Tre’von Moehrig, Nate Hobbs and Tyree Gillespie.

These three young men will be tested greatly at Heinz Field against the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger. While Lamar Jackson had 19 pass completions against the Raiders, he averaged only 7.8 yards per completion. Big Ben is going to try his hand deep down the field with his receivers, who have a lethal combination of size, speed and great route-running with the trio of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson. The three receivers combined for over 2600 receiving yards last season.

The task of containing them is difficult for anyone, especially three players straight out of college. However, from what I've seen from these rookies throughout Training Camp and the season opener, they'll be up for the challenge. Moehrig and Hobbs combined for seven total tackles in the win against the Ravens.

Fortunately, they won't be on the own. They're surrounded with veteran playmakers in the secondary in Casey Hayward Jr. and Trayvon Mullen Jr.. Also, let's not forget the improved defensive line that I'll be addressing in this next question...

William Wallace asks...

"Good win! If the front four can get after Ben Roethlisberger like they did Lamar Jackson, will they have five sacks?"

If Maxx Crosby keeps balling like this, it's possible.

The Raiders are coming off a three sack performance against arguably the most versatile quarterback in the NFL. The Steelers notably revamped their offensive line this offseason with two rookies starting. Roethlisberger is also known to be primarily a pocket passer. Therefore, the pass rush on Big Ben will be kicked up to another level.

"It's just a completely different offense that we're facing," said defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. "Very explosive. Different style of quarterback; strong, can extend plays by stepping up in the pocket. You have to have a plan on [Roethlisberger] as far as pressure just like we had last week. He's just very accurate. He does a great job with his eyes, so it's a whole new set of challenges with him."

Crosby is coming off a six tackle, two sack game and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week. The 24-year-old edge rusher has more sacks than any player in his 2019 NFL draft class. With Yannick Ngakoue on the other side of the defensive line, the two edge rushers combined for over 15 quarterback pressures on Lamar Jackson.

The AFC DPOW alongside the rest of the defensive line versus a fairly unproven front line of the Steelers – five sacks isn't unreasonable. And that is so good to say for a defense that's had historically low sack numbers the past few seasons.

@younguglyjavi asks...

"Should we expect Clelin Ferrell to have some reps this game?"

Don't ask me, ask Gus Bradley. He wasted no time Thursday addressing how much Ferrell will be needed against the Steelers.

"He's having a good week of practice this week," said Bradley "I think for us, just monitoring that and deciding at that point maybe the needs that we see. We felt like [Baltimore] was a team that can really just line up and pound us last week. So, that's on a week-to-week basis, but he's practicing really well. He practiced well today."

Despite Ferrell being inactive, the way he was able to stay in tune with his coaches and teammates on the sideline revealed a lot about the character of the lineman to his defensive coordinator.

"He is a true pro now. He was on the sideline probably being one of our biggest cheerleaders," Bradley said. "He was outstanding, and I talked to him about that. He was fantastic. That's tough to go through what he did. But his attitude, the way he handled it, great teammate. Outstanding. Can't say enough about him. So, hopefully everything works out this week. We're going to need a good dose of him hopefully this week."

So you heard it here first – we can potentially expect a good dose of Ferrell in Pittsburgh.

Daniel Flores says..

"We need another receiver to compliment Bryan Edwards & Henry Ruggs III."

C'mon Daniel. Don't disrespect third and Renfrow like this.

The Raiders already have a reliable receiver to compliment Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs III. His name is Hunter Renfrow, and he was second in targets and catches against the Ravens last Monday.

Renfrow didn't waste any time showing how valuable he is to the Raiders offense with a six catch, 70-yard performance in the victory against the Ravens. On top of that, he was responsible for drawing a crucial pass interference call that lead to a Josh Jacobs touchdown. Renfrow has recorded over 600 receiving yards his first two seasons and his connection with Derek Carr might set up for even bigger success in his third season.

"The way he sees the game, the way he plays the game. Super tough, unbelievably athletic, quick, agile," Carr said about the slot receiver Wednesday. "I mean, he goes against some of the best corners in the world and finds a way to get open and make plays. So, I think the biggest thing I love about him is he sees the game the exact same way that I do, so he runs some unorthodox type routes but I kind of see it that way, and I think that makes it harder for defenses and that's why we've had a great relationship and a great chemistry since he got here."

That chemistry Renfrow has with his quarterback should continue to keep him productive in this offense and continuously develop.

"I love Derek. He's been big for me in that maturation process," Renfrow said. "Just all his knowledge. His eight years of knowledge and being able to convey that to me, it's becoming – I won't say easier and easier but simpler and simpler. I'm able to recognize defenses a little better and the little things that should take place as you play more and get more experience...

"We do our jobs and try to get better from year to year, no matter what you do. And hopefully, I'm able to keep getting better and better."

View director of photography Michael Clemens' top picks of black and white photos from the Raiders' Week 1 victory against the Baltimore Ravens at Allegiant Stadium.

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