WR Louis Murphy (18) caught the game-winning touchdown pass as the Raiders stunned the Steelers during their 2009 match up at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
The Oakland Raiders travel to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh this week to take on the Steelers in a 2010 Regular Season Week 11 match up. The Raiders, who lead the AFC Western division, will face the 6-3 Steelers.
"[We're] playing a physical opponent, a team that likes to throw the ball but has the ability to run it, a team that prides themselves on stopping the run and likes to rush the passer," said Head Coach Tom Cable. The Silver and Black will face an experienced veteran quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, an accomplished receiver in Hines Ward and a playmaking safety in Troy Polamalu. The Raiders hope to repeat last year's successful trip to Pittsburgh and return to Oakland with a 6-4 record.
The Raiders offense will face a Pittsburgh defense that leads the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (63.2). "He's all over the place," QB Jason Campbell said of Polamalu, one of the Steelers' defensive leaders. "He's all over the field. He's been that way his whole career. The guy has exceptional speed that he believes in. He feels like he can cover ground and kind of disguise a lot of looks because of his speed. The way that he plays, it's a tribute to him because he's developed his own style at playing safety."
The Raiders offense also has to be prepared for Steelers LB James Harrison, who leads the team with seven sacks. "He's a great player," said T Langston Walker. "He was defensive player of the year at one point. His skill set is expansive. Like we've always done, we have to go out there and play our game."
The offense believes it's prepared for the challenging Steelers defense. "Every week is a big week for us," said Campbell. "Going to Pittsburgh, it's a tough team, a tough challenge. We know defensively they do a lot of different things so we all have to stay on top of our assignments and we have to focus on everything that we do and do it well."
The Raiders, ranked 2nd in the NFL in pass defense, will look to contain Roethlisberger and the rest of the Steelers offense. "You have to try to keep him in the pocket. We're very aware that, escapability, he might be as good as there is," said Coach Cable. "Outside the pocket he's dramatically to another level, dramatically better than most. You want to squeeze him from all angles, whether it was with pressure or just a four-man rush and know where he's at. The biggest thing is if you can get your hands on him to wrap him up. He's very good at getting out of potential sacks and getting through traffic. Then you have to stay in coverage in the back end because that's where he really does a great job, escaping then throwing the ball downfield."
Roethlisberger will look to connect with wide receiver Hines Ward, who has four touchdowns so far this season. "He's a big part of their offense," said CB Nnamdi Asomugha. "This is one of the most talented players in the league."
While the Raiders are gearing up for a talented Steelers team, Pittsburgh has spent the week preparing for the surging Silver and Black. "I think they're doing a nice job of establishing a personality," said Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin. "They're running the ball extremely well. [RB Darren] McFadden is an awesome player. He's supplemented extremely well by [RB Michael] Bush. They're doing a nice job of working the ball down the field. I think [Zach] Miller, the tight end, is a complete player. He's good on the line blocking, he's good on the line of scrimmage, he's good in the passing game. They have a myriad of tricks that you need to be prepared for and be sound."
While the Raiders offense has done its part during the three-game win streak, the defense has caught the eye of teams around the league, particularly DT Richard Seymour. "I've been playing against him for a while now and I've always thought that he was one of those great players," said Roethlisberger. "In my opinion he's playing the best football of his career. He would be my choice for MVP. He leads that defense. He wreaks havoc on everybody and everything. He seems to be rejuvenated, playing like he never has before."
Coach Tomlin has also noticed the strides the Raiders are making. "I think Richard Seymour, he's got an awesome reputation in this business and it's well earned," said Coach Tomlin. "I think that Tommy Kelly is very disruptive. I think they're playing extremely well together, they're gaming well together, being disruptive in that way. As are they with the ends and some of the games they're running with the ends. I think that their front is talented and deep and dictating the pace of games. I really think that the rest of the defense is riding an awesome wave created by the play of those men up front and led by Richard Seymour."
The Raiders are looking to win four games in a row for the first time since 2002 and start the post-bye part of the season with a victory. Both teams remember last year's game at Heinz Field, but know that this is a different year with new implications. "We know how good they are this year and they're playing very well so it'll be a great match up," said Coach Cable.