LAS VEGAS — The Pittsburgh Steelers can complete their turnaround from a disastrous Week 1 by beating the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday and moving to 2-1 and a first-place tie in the AFC North.
Or, they could continue their struggles with Pacific Time Zone football, and kick away a winnable game while giving ground in the AFC. That’s really what this one boils down to.
KEY TO VICTORY: Get The Offense Going
The obvious key — for the third week in a row — is stopping the opposing top running back. But we’ll get to that.
In the meantime, this is a great opportunity for the Steelers to get their offense going. The Raiders have allowed 27 points per game through two weeks and perhaps more importantly, they’re 27th in rushing yards per game against. The Steelers need to get their running game going and take some of the pressure off young quarterback Kenny Pickett, and this seems like a perfect get-right game for the ground game.
Last season, the Steelers combined for 106 yards rushing on 27 carries. That doesn’t look particularly impressive, but remember the conditions that game was played under. The Steelers held the Raiders to 58 yards on 19 carries. If they can nearly double up Vegas’ rushing total again, I can nearly guarantee a Steelers win.
OVERLOOKED MATCHUP: Steelers Run D vs. Big Play
Remember those opposing rushing yards rankings for the 2023 season that had the Raiders 27th?
The Steelers are dead last.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that two plays are having an outsized impact on their standing. The Steelers gave up a 65-yard run to Christian McCaffrey and a 69-yarder to Jerome Ford. Subtract those, and the Steelers would be 24th. Still not great, but significantly better. They have to find a way to Josh Jacobs from repeating the trick and breaking contain on their defense, even if he gets a decent amount of overall rushing yards.
BOLD PREDICTION: Steelers Rookie Snags It
Jimmy Garoppolo’s career is full of games where he just doesn’t make the big mistake. He’s been sacked on only 6.5% of his career dropbacks and not at all this season. He’s thrown seven interceptions total since the start of the 2021 season.
I’m not sure they’ll be able to snap that sack-less streak. He just gets rid of the ball too quickly at times. But the Steelers DBs can ballhawk. Since the team getting an interception isn’t exactly a bold prediction, I’ll say rookie Joey Porter Jr. gets his hands on his first one in a slightly increased role in this one.
Steelers 24, Raiders 10
Last week: Steelers 20-17 (W)
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Under 43.5 (-110)
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Last week: 1-2 (W Steelers +2.5; L Under, Pickett longest pass)
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