Updated September 24, 2023 - 2:01 pm
Two of the old-school powers of the AFC renew a rivalry that peaked in the 1970s when the Raiders play their home opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on “Sunday Night Football.” Both teams are 1-1 with offenses that have plenty of room for improvement.
■ Who: Steelers at Raiders
■ When: 5:20 p.m. Sunday
■ Where: Allegiant Stadium
■ TV: KSNV-3 (Mike Tirico, play-by-play, Cris Collinsworth and Melissa Stark, analysts)
■ Radio: KRLV-AM (920), KOMP-FM (92.3) (Jason Horowitz, play-by-play; Lincoln Kennedy, analyst)
■ Line: Raiders -2½; total 43
The Steelers claimed a victory last season with a dramatic late score in frigid conditions in Pittsburgh, but the Raiders are 17-14 in a series that includes six postseason meetings.
Kenny Pickett hit George Pickens for a 14-yard touchdown with 46 seconds remaining on Christmas Eve, as the Steelers scored 10 fourth-quarter points to claim a 13-10 victory in Derek Carr’s final start as the Raiders’ quarterback. The game served as a celebration of the 50-year anniversary of “The Immaculate Reception,” one of the most famous plays in football history and one of many memorable moments between the iconic franchises.
1. The Raiders will score a defensive or special teams touchdown for the first time since last season’s walk-off score against the Patriots at Allegiant Stadium.
2. Hunter Renfrow, who has one target this season, will have two third-down receptions to move the chains.
3. Steelers running back Najee Harris will score his first rushing touchdown of the season and just his second in six games dating to last season.
Matchups to watch
1. Steelers offensive line vs. Raiders defensive line. Pittsburgh has been awful up front, a major factor in its offensive struggles. The Steelers averaged an almost unreal minus-1.1 yards before contact last week in the run game, and left tackle Dan Miller has allowed a league-high 15 pressures. This is a battle the Raiders need to win.
2. Raiders right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor vs. Steelers edge T.J. Watt. Watt is unquestionably one of the NFL’s most impactful defensive players. Eluemunor is playing at a high level and hasn’t allowed any pressures. He will get help with Watt, but if Eluemunor continues to excel, it would be a huge benefit for the offense.
3. Raiders cornerback Marcus Peters vs. Steelers wide receiver George Pickens. Despite the Steelers’ struggles on offense, Pickens stands out as the only true game-breaker. He can get deep, pull in contested catches in the end zone and turn a short pass into a big play. Peters won’t be isolated on him all the time, but he will be tasked often with staying with Pickens. The Raiders must limit his chances to change the game in one play.
When the Steelers have the ball
There is no way to sugarcoat their putrid start on offense. It’s difficult to tell whether their run game or their pass game represents the least potent unit in the league. The Steelers didn’t run one play in the red zone last week, and the calls to fire offensive coordinator Matt Canada are growing louder and louder. His schemes are as predictable as they are ineffective. The Raiders can’t allow the Steelers to find their confidence.
When the Raiders have the ball
The issues with the run game are becoming troublesome. Last week, Josh Jacobs became the first reigning NFL rushing champion to finish a game in negative yardage since at least the merger in 1970. He has 46 total rushing yards this season, but 54 after contact. That’s a wild stat that means he is encountering a defender in the backfield on nearly every carry. That needs to change, and it could start by backing some of the defenders off the line of scrimmage by finding more success downfield in the passing game. The return of Jakobi Meyers, who had a huge game in the opener but missed last week with a concussion, should help as a complementary option to Davante Adams. But to make any of that work, the Raiders must find a way to make sure Watt can’t wreck the game.
Steelers: OUT: WR Gunner Olszewski (concussion). FULL: CB Patrick Peterson (NIR-resting player), S Damontae Kazee (calf), FS Minkah Fitzpatrick (chest), LB Markus Golden (knee), G Isaac Seumalo (NIR-resting player), TE Darell Washington (knee), DT Larry Ogunjobi (foot).
Raiders: QUESTIONABLE: DE Tyee Wilson (illness). LIMITED: DT Bilal Nichols (hamstring/hand). FULL: CB Jakorian Bennett (hamstring), LB Divine Deablo (rib), S Marcus Epps (quadricep), WR Jakobi Meyers (concussion), S Chris Smith II (illness).
One of football’s most historic rivalries will be renewed in prime time when the Steelers visit Las Vegas for the first time.
While the Steelers-Raiders games in the glory days of the 1970s often had massive stakes at the top of the standings, they meet Sunday with both teams looking to establish an identity.
The Steelers have the worst offense in the league. They are 1-1 because their defense scored two touchdowns in Week 2 to steal a victory over division rival Cleveland.
The Raiders know they can’t hand over points.
“There’s a huge emphasis every week for us in terms of ball security,” offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi said. “You can’t win games in this league unless you take care of the football.
“They know that if there’s an opportunity to get the football, they can change the game much like they did (Monday) and much like we let Buffalo do last week. We have to make sure we do a better job with that as a unit.”
Raiders 20, Steelers 17
Adam Hill Las Vegas Review-Journal