|Darren McFadden and the Raiders are off to a slow start in 2012. They'll be looking for their first win of the season when they host the Steelers on Sunday. (AP)|
Steelers at Raiders – Week 3
Where: O.co Coliseum, Oakland (grass, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 1:25 p.m. PDT (CBS)
Spread: Steelers by 4.
Forecast: Partly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of rain and temperatures in the 70s at kickoff.
Records: Raiders (Overall: 0-2, AFC West: 0-1); Steelers (Overall: 1-1, AFC North: 0-0).
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Nov. 21, 2010: Steelers 35, Raiders 3; Dec. 6, 2009: Raiders 27, Steelers 24. Raiders lead the regular-season series 10-9. The teams are 3-3 in the postseason.
What matters: The Oakland Raiders dropped to 0-2 last week after a humiliating 35-13 loss to Miami and are already in must-win mode. If they lose again, their slim playoff hopes will become next to none. The Raiders haven't been able to get their running game and zone blocking scheme untracked -- they rank 31st in rushing. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is taking increasing heat. Oakland's defense had a second-half meltdown at Miami, allowing 28 points and letting Reggie Bush run wild. On Sunday, the Raiders should be able to contain Pittsburgh's 30th ranked rushing offense. The big challenge is Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and his dangerous receiving corps.
Who matters: RB Darren McFadden has to bust out of his funk for the offense to get untracked. QB Carson Palmer will make his 13th career regular-season start against the Steelers. Palmer is familiar with the Steelers' defense and longtime D-coordinator Dick LeBeau. But knowledge doesn't always lead to victories. He's 4-12 against the Steelers. On defense, the Raiders' linemen -- particularly tackles Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour -- need to put pressure on Roethlisberger and make life easier for their short-handed secondary.
Key matchups: Raiders secondary vs. Steelers WRs Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. The Raiders have lost starting CBs Ron Bartell (broken shoulder blade) and Shawntae Spencer (sprained foot). It's going to take a group effort by the DBs to deal with Wallace and Brown, arguably the fastest receiving duo they'll face this season. Starting FS Michael Huff has taken plenty of snaps at corner this week, and coach Dennis Allen has said Huff moving to corner is an option. If Huff starts at corner, then veteran Matt Giordano would likely start at free safety.
Injuries of note: Spencer is out with a sprained right foot, and starting right tackle Khalif Barnes will miss the game with a groin injury. Willie Smith, who started three games for the Redskins at left tackle last season, will likely start for Barnes. Backup RB Mike Goodson tweaked a hamstring during practice Thursday, missed practice Friday and is questionable. So is backup RB Taiwan Jones (ribs). Starting MLB Rolando McClain (concussion/ankle) is questionable but practiced Thursday and Friday.
Inside stuff: The Raiders obviously caught two big breaks when Steelers SS Troy Polamalu (calf) and OLB James Harrison (knee) were ruled out for Sunday's game. Here's how big: When the Steelers routed the Raiders 35-3 in 2010, Harrison had two sacks, four quarterback hits, five tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception and a forced fumble. Polamalu intercepted a pass and made six tackles, one for loss.
Connections: Steelers CB DeMarcus Van Dyke returns to Oakland for his first game against the team that drafted him. The Raiders chose him in the third round out of Miami last year but waived him earlier this month. He's been playing special teams for the Steelers.
Stat you should know: In 12 regular-season starts against Pittsburgh – all with Cincinnati - Palmer completed 234 of 410 passes (57.1 percent) for 2,402 yards and 17 TDs with 11 interceptions and a passer rating of 76.7.
Record watch: McFadden needs 102 rushing yards to pass Bo Jackson (2,782) and move into 12th place on the Raiders' all-time rushing list.
Looking ahead: It doesn't get any easier for the Raiders after Sunday. They travel to Denver to face QB Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Then after a bye week, the Raiders hit the road to face QB Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
Prediction: Steelers 27, Raiders 17
Follow Raiders reporter Eric Gilmore on Twitter @CBSRaiders.