Blog Entry

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

Posted on: November 19, 2010 10:49 am
Edited on: November 19, 2010 10:58 am
Posted by Andy Benoit

If you’re a fan of smashmouth football, you’re salivating at this Sunday’s showdown between the second-ranked Raiders run offense and the first-ranked Steelers run defense. Oakland’s suddenly effective ground game has been one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season. Darren McFadden, once a raw, oft-injured first-round bust has blossomed into a bona fide feature back. McFadden leads the league with 108.1 yards per game on the ground, and he’s amongst the league leaders in yards after contact. Bruising backup Michael Bush is also chipping in 46.3 yards per game. D. McFadden (US Presswire)Pittsburgh D (US Presswire)

McFadden’s success on the ground has come primarily on tosses and off-tackle runs (i.e. outside). The Raiders have utilized more six-man lines this season, and the athleticism of rookie left tackle Jared Veldheer has allowed for more movement-based concepts to be incorporated into the run-blocking scheme.

This is particularly noteworthy for Sunday because, as important as nose tackle Casey Hampton and strong safety Troy Polamalu are, the key to Pittsburgh’s run defense has always been the defensive ends. (This is one of the best kept secrets in football, by the way.)

While most 3-4 defenses prefer space-eating anchors at end, the Steelers have always relied on undersized but athletic chaos creators. Instead of commanding double teams on the edge through sheer power, the Steelers aim to command doubles through lateral movement. Essentially, if an end can be disruptive going east and west, he’s going to force the offensive tackle AND either the guard or tight end to engage.

This uncommon approach naturally breaks down a blocking scheme. When a 3-4 end simply holds ground, he’s reacting to an offense. By getting movement on the outside, the Steeler ends force offenses to react to THEM. Thus, the three Steeler defensive linemen dictate the terms of engagement against the five offensive linemen. Three on five? If that battle simply results in a draw, the Steelers win, as the numbers mismatch frees up the linebackers and safeties to play in downhill attack mode.

Of course, getting movement as a 3-4 end is not easy to do – if it were, every team would follow Pittsburgh’s blueprint. The Steelers have been fortunate to have two perfect veteran ends for their scheme: Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith (it’s not just lip service when Steelers coaches and players claim Smith is the defense’s most valuable player).

Problem is, Keisel and Smith are both out Sunday (Keisel is not yet ready to return from a bad hamstring; Smith is doubtful for the remainder of the season with a torn triceps). Recent first-round pick Ziggy Hood has shown flashes, but he’s an inconsistent starter at this point. And, by most accounts, journeyman Nick Eason was been ho-hum filling in at the other end position.

As effective as McFadden and Bush have been, a full-strength Steelers D-line would have little problem stifling Oakland’s rushing attack. But a depleted Steelers D-line levels the playing field. This is what makes Sunday’s matchup so intriguing.

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Since: Sep 7, 2007
Posted on: November 20, 2010 9:13 am

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

Since: May 18, 2009
Posted on: November 19, 2010 8:53 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

I have two thoughts on this: 1) McFadden averages more yards per game than Chris Johnson, and 2) aren't both of Pittsburgh's starting Defensive Ends out? So I gotta think he'll have a better chance than anyone yet. Having said that, 50-75 yards and one touchdown is the most likely total.

Since: Oct 11, 2009
Posted on: November 19, 2010 8:45 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground


Since: Nov 19, 2010
Posted on: November 19, 2010 8:06 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

Senor, Mucho Gracias.
Nothing would be Sweeter than to see The Silver And black Whoop Up on the Stealers
They had some Epic battles back in the 70s, That was Real Football.


Since: Oct 8, 2008
Posted on: November 19, 2010 7:45 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

It is currently scheduled on CBS at 1 PM in the Orlando/Central Fl area...GO RAIDERS!!!

Since: Nov 19, 2010
Posted on: November 19, 2010 6:43 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

I am in the Orlando Daytona Beach area, will I be able to see the Raider/Stealer Game.
Cant seem to find the schedule for Sunday.

Since: Dec 26, 2008
Posted on: November 19, 2010 5:47 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

2001 University of Miami

Frank Gore
Clinton Portis
Willis McGahee

Since: Mar 23, 2010
Posted on: November 19, 2010 4:52 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

what makes you think campbell or mcfadden will have time to do anything against pittsburgh linebackers except decide it aint worth it?

Since: Oct 25, 2009
Posted on: November 19, 2010 4:20 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

Raiders have won 3 in a row IN Pittsburgh. And those were against bad Raider teams. I think Raiders will play solid D, especially in the passing game and will force Pittsburgh to run the ball.

Raiders win a low scoring game, 17-10.

Since: Aug 23, 2006
Posted on: November 19, 2010 4:15 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

the other problem is once Roethlisberger and crew victimize the Raiders defense they will have to commit to the pass to catch up.  The only chance he has is if the Steelers struggle hard on offense, but coming off and embarrassing loss to the pats they will be fired up and have something to prove.

With the way the Raiders' defensive line has been playing as of late, plus all of the blitzes that they've thrown in, combined with the patchwork line that the Steelers now sport, means that may not be nearly as easy as you think.  I think Oakland will play very well defensively this game, and have a great chance to pull the upset as long as they keep the turnovers down to a minimum.  I can see my Raiders as winners of 5 in a row going into the San Diego game, especially with the Dolphins hurting now as well.  This is a great chance for the Raiders to make a playoff push!!!

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