Wed, 29 Nov 2023

Cheat Sheet: Steelers at Raiders

The Steelers
24 Sep 2023, 06:30 GMT+10

Matt Williamson


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The Steelers take to the road as they face the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium.

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This is a storied history and was an incredible rivalry in the 1970s. This series began in 1970 and during that decade, the Steelers and Raiders met 11 times, including five playoff battles - three of which were AFC Championship games. In the '70s the Raiders won six of those 11. Overall, the Oakland/Los Angeles/Las Vegas Raiders lead this series 17-14, but these teams have split their six postseason games. The most recent matchup, last year, was a Steelers 13-10 win in brutal cold. The Steelers have won seven of the last 10, but the Raiders did have a six-game winning streak spanning between 1976 and 1984. Mike Tomlin is 3-5 against the Raiders.


When these teams met late last season, the Steelers generated 5.3 yards per play compared to 3.9 by Las Vegas. Pittsburgh possessed the football for 32:39 in that game and won the turnover battle 3-1. This is the Raiders' home opener. Since moving to Las Vegas, they are 11-14 at home. Since the start of the 2022 season, Las Vegas has had 14 games decided by one score (8 points) or less. That is the most in the league during that time and the Raiders are 5-9 in such contests. The Steelers offense is producing 4.3 yards per play, better than only Carolina and Cincinnati. The Raiders offense produces 5.3 yards per play. Only eight offenses are better. The Steelers and Raiders each allow 5.4 yards per snap. Only eight teams are worse. Last week, the Bills produced 29 first downs compared to just 13 by Las Vegas. Buffalo ran 74 plays. The Raiders ran just 39. The Bills offense produced 450 total yards compared to 240 from Las Vegas. Against the Raiders, Buffalo possessed the football for 40:04 compared to 19:56. Denver won the time of possession battle in Week 1 32:08 to 27:52. The Raiders were minus-3 in turnover differential in Week 2. They are now minus-4 foverall. Only the Vikings are worse. Pittsburgh sits at plus-1. The Steelers have caused seven fumbles already this season. Pittsburgh scored 26 points in Week 2 despite never snapping the ball on offense inside the 30-yard line.


The Steelers are dropping back to pass on 74% of their snaps. Only the Vikings are higher. Kenny Pickett threw for 244 yards when these teams met late last season. Against the Raiders last week, Josh Allen attempted 37 passes and only six were incomplete. Of Pickett's passing yards, 208 have come in the 10- to 20-yards downfield range. The only quarterbacks with more passing yards in that area of the field are CJ Stroud and Brock Purdy. Against the Browns, only four of Pickett's 30 pass attempts were between the numbers. Against San Francisco, he threw 13 of his 46 passes in this area of the field. Pickett has started five prime time games and has won four of them. In 2022 33 percent of George Pickens' routes were go routes. That was the highest percentage in the league. In Week 1, Pickens ran a go route on 25% of his routes. Last week, Pickens produced an incredible 4.23 yards per route run. His 10 targets on Monday Night were the most of his career. The Raiders have allowed opposing wide receivers a league-high 83.9% catch rate and are last in completion percentage allowed overall. Pat Freiermuth has just two catches for five yards this season. He played 41 snaps against the Browns and 32 against the 49ers. Freiermuth also didn't catch a pass in his final game of the 2022 season. Against the Browns, Freiermuth did run a route on 87.5% of the Steelers' dropbacks but was only targeted once. Of the Raiders' completions allowed, 7.1% have gone for touchdowns. Only one defense is worse. In Week 1, the Raiders gave up 131 total yards to running backs, including 10 receptions. Last week, they gave up 226 total yards to the Bills running backs. Buffalo rushed for 183 yards in that game. The Steelers have just 96 rushing yards through two games. Najee Harris averages .38 yards before first contact and Jaylen Warren averages .22. That ranks 49th and 51st respectively out of 56 running backs. Running backs are gaining 5.3 yards per carry against Las Vegas. Just one defense is worse. Las Vegas has used its base defense with four defensive backs on the field just 15.8% of its snaps. Only five defenses have used their base less. The Raiders are allowing a 50% third down conversion rate. That ranks 27th amongst NFL defenses. Pittsburgh's average time of possession of 23:34 is only higher than the Jets. The Raiders have allowed opponents to reach the red zone or score a touchdown on 66.7% (10 of 15) of their drives, the highest in the NFL. Las Vegas has allowed a league-high 51.8 yards per drive. The Raiders don't have an interior defensive lineman that has played more than 49% of their defensive snaps, but they have five that are over a 31% snap share. Former Steeler Robert Spillane has yet to miss a snap in his first season in Las Vegas. Fellow linebacker Divine Deablo isn't far behind, playing 94% of the snaps. The other two full-time defensive players for Las Vegas have been defensive backs Trevon Moehrig and Nate Hobbs, both having played 100% of the snaps thus far.


The Raiders offense is last in points per game and 30th in total yards. No offense is running fewer plays per game (47) than Las Vegas. Las Vegas is fourth-best in completion percentage through two weeks and third in yards per attempt. Only two offenses align in the shotgun a lesser percentage than Las Vegas. Just one offense is using a sixth offensive lineman a higher percentage of the time than the Raiders. They also rank fifth in the usage of two or more running backs, which includes a fullback. Davante Adams had just two catches for 15 yards last year against Pittsburgh. That was Adams' second-lowest output in a season in which he racked up 1,516 receiving yards. Last week, Adams was the Raiders leading receiver, racking up 84 yards on six catches in Buffalo. Las Vegas was without Jacoby Meyers last week. With Meyers sidelined, Las Vegas only had one wide receiver catch from anyone other than Adams. Las Vegas' tight ends are getting the lowest team target percentage of any group of tight ends in the NFL. Of a possible 40 offensive snaps last week, Austin Hooper was on the field for 17 plays and Michael Mayer for 16. The Raiders ran seven plays out of 20 Personnel with two running backs, zero tight ends and three wide receivers on the field. The Raiders only utilized two snaps of 12 Personnel (1 RB/2 TE) in Week 1. Through two games, Jimmy Garoppolo has thrown for 385 yards. He has thrown three touchdown and three interceptions. Garoppolo is completing 72% of his attempts. Only Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Kirk Cousins are better. And Garoppolo's 7.7 yards per attempt is only lower than six starting quarterbacks. Garoppolo has yet to be sacked this season. However, the Steelers have sacked opposing quarterbacks nine times over two games which is third-most in the league. TJ Watt has four sacks, which is tied for the league lead in sacks. The Steelers held Jacobs to just 44 rushing yards on 15 carries last year. That was Jacobs second-lowest output in a game in a season in which he ran for 1,653 yards and led the NFL in rushing. This year, Jacobs has just 46 rushing yards through two games. Jacobs handled 91% of the Raiders backfield touches in Week 1. Last week, the Raiders ran the ball only 15 times and Jacobs had nine of those carries. But Jacobs ran for minus-2 yards on those nine carries in Buffalo. He had minus-13 yards before contact and 11 yards after contact. He was stuffed on five of his nine carries for zero or negative yards. Jacobs was the Raiders' second-leading receiver though in Buffalo, catching five passes for 51 yards. In Week 1, Jacobs averaged just .53 yards before first contact. In Week 2, that number fell even further to minus-1.78 meaning Jacobs was first getting touched by a defensive player-on average-almost two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Only Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley and Jacobs have an 80% running back rush share and 15% target share through two games. Bijan Robinson is the only running back with a higher team target share than Jacobs, who has been thrown to on 19% of the Raiders' drop backs. Tre Tucker had one carry in Week 2 for 34 yards. Other than that, the Raiders rushed for 21 yards on their remaining 14 carries. The Raiders as a team have rushed for just 82 rushing yards in the 2023 season. Of the Raiders' running plays, 30 percent have gained zero or negative yardage. That is the highest percentage in the league. The Browns rushed for 198 yards in Pittsburgh last week and the Steelers gave up 188 yards on the ground to San Francisco in Week 1. In each of the last two weeks, Pittsburgh has given up a run of 65 yards or more. Pittsburgh's defense is last in yards per carry. Pittsburgh's defense allows the opponent to convert a series of downs into a new series of downs 67% of the time. Only nine defenses are better. The Raiders 44.4% third down conversion rate is the seventh-best in the league. Pittsburgh's defense has employed five defensive backs 48.2% of its snaps. Only three defenses have used nickel a lower percentage of their snaps. Backup outside linebackers Markus Golden and Nate Herbig have played between 19%-21% of the defensive snaps thus far this year. The Steelers have utilized a single-high safety on 64.5% of their defensive snaps. Only three defenses use this tactic at a higher rate.


The Steelers opponents have yet to return a kickoff this season, but they have returned three punts for 41 yards, a 13.7 average. There has only been one field goal missed (8 attempts) in Steelers games this season. There has not been a single punt returned by either team in both Raiders games this season.


December 29th, 1974: Steelers 24, Raiders 13, Oakland Coliseum, AFC Championship Game

This was a game littered with future Hall of Fame players, coaches and owners. The up-and-coming Steelers were coming off a decided home victory over Buffalo while the Raiders had narrowly snuck by Miami at home in a game that John Madden proclaimed "The NFL's two best teams just played." The first half was dominated by both imposing defenses, but Pittsburgh scored three fourth quarter touchdowns to put the Raiders away. Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier combined to rush for 209 yards. The Steelers went on to defeat the Vikings in Super Bowl IX, the first of their four Super Bowl victories in the 1970s.


Raiders RB Josh Jacobs vs. Steelers Linebackers

After winning the rushing title last season, Jacobs has started very slow through two games. But he has been very effective as a pass catcher. Taking Jacobs lightly would be a massive mistake for the Steelers defense however, especially after seeing the damage Christian McCaffrey, Nick Chubb and Jerome Ford did these past two games.

Steelers Pass Protection vs. Raiders DE Maxx Crosby

The Steelers have done a tremendous job the past two weeks not allowing Nick Bosa and Myles Garrett to take over the game. Now they face another outstanding edge rusher in Crosby, but unlike Bosa and Garrett, Crosby doesn't have as strong of a supporting cast around him up front. That doesn't mean he can't wreck a game, however. Crosby very rarely leaves the field. He has played 91% of the Raiders defensive snaps thus far, which isn't unusual for him.

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