Week 9 Mailbag Questions Answered

Photos of the Raiders taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers throughout the years.

From Gabriel B: What will the defense have to do to confuse Big Ben?

JK: I don't think confusing him is the key here. Roethlisberger is a savvy veteran quarterback. I think the key will be relentless pressure and playing all the way through the whistle. This guy is so big and strong, and good at extending plays and going deep when plays break down, the raiders will have to make sure they make him uncomfortable in the pocket, and get him on the ground when they get their hands on him.

From Robert A: Do you think Khalil Mack can have a breakout game against the Steelers?

JK: Just because defensive end Khalil Mack has but four sacks (which matches his total from all of last year), doesn't mean he hasn't been productive or disruptive. He's drawn holding penalties and created opportunities for other players by drawing double-teams and driving quarterbacks into the arms of other defenders.

From Cesar P: What has happened to Keith McGill – do you see him having an opportunity in the secondary again, perhaps as a safety?

JK: Cornerback Keith McGill has been dealing with a foot injury off and on this season, however, he has been seeing more action of late, especially on special teams. Cornerbacks DJ Hayden and Dave Amerson have really been holding down the fort on the outside the past few weeks, and TJ Carrie has been doing an admirable job as a safety and playing in the slot.


From Alex T**: Do you think this game is more likely to be a defensive battle or a shootout?

JK: It could be either. I have seen both between these teams in my 15 years with the Raiders. The weather will be cool and crisp, but shouldn't be a factor. The Raiders are averaging more than 25 points per game, while allowing 24.7 points per game. The Steelers are allowing just 18.4 points per game, while scoring 21 points per game. Pittsburgh's last game was a 16-10 loss to the Bengals while the Raiders have score more than 30 in their last two games, both victories. What I can say is that I think it'll be close.

From Lou G: How many interceptions could Charles Woodson feasibly have this season? Is he the current favorite for Defensive Player of the Year?

JK: Rod Woodson tied for the NFL lead with 8 in a similar role in 2002. I could see Charles Woodson hauling in about that many. His anticipation, athleticism and willingness to sacrifice his body is leading to game-changing plays. He knows when to take a chance or play it safe.

From Paul J: Do you think all of the playoff talk could have an effect on the team?

JK: In theory? Sure. But Head Coach Jack Del Rio hammers home the fact that this is a week-to-week league, nothing is promised or guaranteed, and that the players in the Raiders locker room are professionals. This seems to be a humble group that is not getting caught up on their own newspaper clippings.


From Jim B**: What are the hardest games left on the schedule and do you think the Raiders can chase down the Broncos for the division?

JK: They are all going to be difficult, even with the struggles the Lions and Titans have had. The last thing you want to do is underestimate an opponent. Minnesota is an up and coming team, Green Bay is a perennial playoff team; there are still two games with Kansas City on the slate and a trip to Denver. Denver has had numerous close calls this season, so anything is possible. As I mentioned in a previous answer, Head Coach Jack Del Rio reminds us every day that the NFL is a week-to-week deal.

From Larry B: What do you think is the best way to defend the Steelers?

JK: Tough, hard-nosed physical play. Dominate at the line of scrimmage. I think you beat the Steelers the same way you beat the Jets. Shut down the running game, pressure the quarterback and run the ball.


From James M**: Do you think it was a good thing or a bad thing that the Raiders didn't make any moves at the trade deadline?

JK: I personally think it's a good thing. This team is building toward not only winning now, but also long-term sustained success. You don't want to mortgage your future on one guy who may or may not fit, someone who didn't go to camp with you. If the team was say 6-1 and though one more piece would get them to the Super Bowl, maybe you make a splash move.

From Mark C: It seems like we can't possibly spread the ball around enough with Cooper, Crabtree, Holmes, Reece, Murray, and now Taiwan Jones playing well. Do you think we'll pass or run more this weekend against Pittsburgh?

JK: I think you are going to see what you have seen the past few weeks, what MMQB's Andy Benoit described as the league's "most diverse offense." You will see balance and quarterback Derek Carr will continue to try to spread the ball around. The offensive line is playing very well right now.

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