For the second straight week, the Oakland Raiders will face a top-five offense.
Last week, the Silver and Black hosted the rival Kansas City Chiefs at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and what ensued was a shootout. Derek Carr and Patrick Mahomes exchanged passing touchdowns for most of the afternoon, and if the Raiders want to leave Week 14 with a win, No. 4 will probably have to do the same against Ben Roethlisberger.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently the fourth-best offense in the NFL, averaging 413.8 yards per game, and stopping their explosive playmakers won’t be easy. On Sunday Night Football last week, Roethlisberger and the Steelers were locked into a duel with the Los Angeles Chargers, as each team scored 30 points, and finished the game with a 707 yards combined. Big Ben accounted for 281 of the Steelers’ 336 yards, completing 10 passes to dynamic wide receiver Antonio Brown for 154 yards, and one score.
Raiders Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther knows that stopping the duo of Roethlisberger and Brown is easier said than done, and Thursday he broke down what makes each player such a threat.
“He’s a big guy and he can move around in the pocket,” Guenther said regarding Roethlisberger. “He’s run a couple times. One time against Carolina, I think he ran for about 40 yards. He’s just elusive, and he’s a big guy to bring down. We got to wrap our arms, grab cloth on the way through on the rush and make sure we get our hands on him.
“He’s good,” Guenther added in reference to Brown. “They move him around. They will put him in the slot some, put him on the backside in a Z or X and do different things with him. He’s a very good route runner. He’s good at the line of scrimmage, as far as getting off press. He’s precise in and out of his routes. Obviously, he has good hands and he’s good after the catch. Again, very familiar with him as well and I got a lot of respect for those people over there. The coaching staff and the players, they are a good organization.”
Veteran safety Marcus Gilchrist has faced his fair share of talented playmakers over the course of his eight years in the NFL, and this won’t be his first time facing the Steelers’ tandem. In three career games against Roethlisberger, Gilchrist has 10 tackles, one tackle for loss, and he’s sacked the 36-year-old once. This will be his third time facing Brown – the Pro Bowl wide out missed a game due to injury in 2017 – and has helped keep him under 80 yards in both meetings, but he’s all too aware Brown can turn it on at a moment’s notice.
“I think he’s got tremendous route running, precise,” Gilchrist said. “It helps when you’ve been with Roethlisberger for your whole career. They’ve got a certain chemistry with each other, where they can really connect, make eye contact and run a certain route, or just improvise with each other.”
Just three days out from the clash at the Coliseum, Gilchrist is confident in the coaching staff’s plan to keep Roethlisberger and Brown at bay.
“The coaches are doing a good job creating a plan,” he said when asked how you stop the Steelers. “We’re digesting it right now, and just go out there and execute the plan.”
Sunday’s matchup between the historic franchises will be fun, and I look forward to watching what transpires. Kickoff is at 1:25 p.m. PT; don’t miss it.