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: Oct 30, 2010
Posted on: November 19, 2010 3:02 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

Does that mean I should sit Darren McFadden?

Since: Mar 31, 2007
Posted on: November 19, 2010 2:59 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

I agree that is one of the best trio of backs to make an impact in the NFL.  Hillis returned punts with Felix as a fullback.  The only other trio that can come close was at Tennessee with Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry, and Travis Stephens.  Stephens didn't have an impact in the NFL like Hillis, but was a stud as an undersize back with the Vols.

Since: Nov 12, 2006
Posted on: November 19, 2010 2:36 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. "

Obviously you haven't been watching the Raiders defense this year.  It should be a low scoring game which plays into the Raiders hand... 

Since: Dec 29, 2008
Posted on: November 19, 2010 1:40 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

The Steelers have not and will not a 100 yard rusher this year, thats fact, consider it a great game by McFadden if he hits 75 yards.  McFadden is great but if you think he'll hit 100 you obviously havent seen the Steelers defense in action this year.  Chris Johnson couldnt gain 40 yards against them and you think McFadden will hit 100.  Good Luck!  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.  I wish McFadden luck but if he gets 100 yards he will need 40-50 carries

Since: Apr 27, 2007
Posted on: November 19, 2010 1:39 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

I hope we do get them.  If you are as old as I am, you go back to when we got RIPPED during the Immaculant Reception and start hating the Steelers from there.  Any time the Steelers lose is a good day, and if I remember right, last year the Teal curtain showed up in Oakland and the Grad's passed thier lights out.  Kudos have to go to Cable - I think he switched Davis' senility medicine with Tranquilizers - that is the only way he could have gotten this much control - reminds me of a young John Madden.  GO Radaz", as Berman might say.

Since: Aug 9, 2010
Posted on: November 19, 2010 1:11 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

This game certainly SHOULD be a doozy.  I personally cannot wait for kickoff.  I've been one of a select few to stick by Run DMC throughout his young career and he is finally starting to look like the freakish back that he was at Arkansas.  The Raiders finally seem to understand that this is a back who shouldn't be getting 10-15 carries a game but 20+ per game as he seems to get better the more touches he gets.  His first 2 years he was splitting carries with Fargas and Bush, both decent backs, however McFadden is absolutely an every down back, as far as I'm concerned.  I understand he was injured quite often his first 2 seasons, but that's hardly his fault.  His O-line was horrific.  So if the Raiders can get some good runs Sunday, that should help free up the passing game, which has been haunting the Steelers D recently.  The matchup I'm really looking forward to is Asomugha on Wallace...should be interesting.  Off the subject, how about that Arkansas trio of backs? Hillis, Run DMC, and Felix the Cat...dare I say, best college trio ever...? Hands down as far as I'm concerned. Go Raiders!!!

Since: Aug 13, 2010
Posted on: November 19, 2010 12:49 pm

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

Looking forward to the game.

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: November 19, 2010 11:09 am

Week 11 Key Matchup: Raiders-Steelers on ground

Yeah, every week it seems we (The Raiders) face the "#2 run defene team," the "#3 run defense team," the "new #2 run defense team" and gash em for yards.  I don't doubt a healthy Steelers team would do better than most, but I almost wish we'd get a chance to find out.  What makes McFadden great this year is his combination of speed and power.  He's knocking people out and getting a ton of yards after the first hit.  He's taken 3-4 linebackers out for a number of games.  I would love to see him go head-to-head with Troy P. 

Look for McFadden to get 100 yards Sunday against Pittsburg.

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