Steelers early impressions by the numbers vs. Raiders

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (14) Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (14) Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

Each looking to improve to 2-0 to start the season, what do the numbers tell us of the Pittsburgh Steelers upcoming game against the Las Vegas Raiders?

From a familiar opponent they’ve matched with in the past three consecutive seasons in the Buffalo Bills, the Pittsburgh Steelers will face the Las Vegas Raiders for the first time since 2018 in their home-opener.

The black and gold against the black and silver, a feature of two teams that had some of the most thrilling victories in Week 1.

More times than not, the Raiders have successfully secured wins against the Steelers in their recent history, winning three of the last four. However, they have yet to come away victorious in Pittsburgh since 2002.

A matchup, that although it is only Week 2 into the 2021 season, could say much for both teams. After their recent performances in their last games, how legit is the Raiders offense, and can the Steelers defense maintain its shockingly elite level of dominance?

Steelers must mirror second half at Bills in Week 2 vs. Raiders

After failing to score in the first half against the Bills, trailing 0-10, everything seemed the same. The offense lacked a running game and big plays downfield through the air, and while the defense did enough, it would never be enough.

Images of how 2020 ended cycled in fans’ heads everywhere, but then a light sparked. Back-to-back field goals and a blocked punt to open the second half, Pittsburgh charged an amount of momentum we haven’t seen since early last year. Netting 50-plus yards on nearly (48 on drive No. 4) four of their five offensive drives in the second half, compared to Buffalo’s one, Pittsburgh stole a win that wrote them off from Vegas oddsmakers to studio analysts.

Looking towards the Raiders, quarterback Derek Carr led a late drive to tie the game and eventually overcame the Baltimore Ravens in overtime. An unforeseen victory by most, Las Vegas did it in a fashion that will test the limits of Pittsburgh once again.

Currently NFL’s number one passing team in yards (435), Carr and Co. completed 60 percent of his 56 attempts in Week 1. Although he targeted nine different receivers, the biggest headline remains to be tight end Darren Waller. Nineteen targets, 10 receptions, 105 receiving yards, and one touchdown, one of the league’s best at his position is already off to a blazing start and doesn’t expect to slow down anytime soon.

Accompanied with athletic freaks on the outside in wide receivers Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards, and rising talent in the slot, wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, the Steelers secondary must prove themselves again. As four of the Raiders pass-catchers ended with an aDOT (Average Depth of Target) of 10.0 or more, six different receivers ended with a 20-plus yard reception.

Much like in the Buffalo game, as Pittsburgh attempts to slow down the aerial attack of Las Vegas, the defense must limit the running game from having any profound effect but will have a much more formidable challenge.

A test for any defense, dual-threat running back Josh Jacobs will match up against the Steelers for the first time in his NFL career. Although his performance in total yards against the Ravens (40) is a bit lackluster in comparison to his usual expectations, Jacobs still ended his with a pair of touchdowns on the ground.

Pittsburgh’s front seven can not only make its money this week in slowing him down but also in bringing pressure on Carr. Sacked three times and hit eight to the Ravens, the Steelers defense could control the bulk of this game from start to finish, but as they do, on the other side, the Raiders have an EDGE of their own that will garner considerable attention.

While right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor is assigned with a heavy task in slowing EDGE Maxx Crosby down, the Steelers offense as a whole has a chance to do damage.

Acknowledging it was the Ravens’ usual efficient rushing attack, the Raiders allowed 5.6 yards per carry (30th), and quarterback Lamar Jackson completed 63 percent of his passes on 6.6 NY/A (net yards gained per attempt).

Wide receivers Marquise Brown and Sammy Watkins each were able to total at least 69 receiving yards and be the recipients of plays of nearly 30-plus yards or more.

If this was an article on the subject of fantasy, stream your Steelers receivers. Primed for exceptional performance, anything less should be worrisome for this offense. Pittsburgh enters in with a minus-4.5 spread, and if they can channel that energy they contained in that second half against the Bills, don’t be shocked if the lead ends by double-digits.

Next. 4 burning questions Steelers have in Week 2 vs. Raiders. dark