ReFo: Steelers @ Raiders, Week 8
The Oakland Raiders started things as they meant to in this game, with QB Terrelle Pryor breaking loose for a 93-yard touchdown run on the team’s first play from scrimmage. This play set the tone as much for Pittsburgh’s inability to defend Pryor as it did for his ability as a runner, and in truth that was about the most comfortable 93-yard run you are ever likely to see.
The Raiders jumped out to an early lead over the Steelers and though they seemed unable to really kill the game off late, allowing Pittsburgh to come back to within a score and have the ball in their hands at the death, they were truthfully well-deserving of the win.
Pittsburgh — Three Performances of Note
Best Guard Prospect since Hutchinson
Those words seemed a little hollow when David DeCastro was injured much of his rookie year and struggling to rebound from being hurt the rest. They will have stung a little more when he inexplicably made a mess of an attempted cut block and torpedoed Maurkice Pouncey’s knee, putting him out for the season. Quietly, however, DeCastro has strung together a series of impressive displays, grading in the green in five of the last six games he has played in. This was better than all but the Ravens game for him, allowing just a single QB hit in pass protection and run blocking comparatively well to earn a +2.9 grade. DeCastro and Gilbert actually formed a pretty decent right side for Roethlisberger before DeCastro went down hurt and forced yet more reshuffling along the line.
Fear the Beard
Brett Keisel is the lone holdover from the old Steelers D-line, with Casey Hampton and others having moved on and been replaced. While neither Cameron Heyward nor Steve McLendon played poorly, they were outshone by Keisel who was a constant force against the run for the Steelers and chipped in with more than his fair share of pressure too. Keisel’s speed off the ball proved too much for LG Lucas Nix on more than one occasion. He earned a sack and three more hurries as well as six defensive stops on his way to a +4.5 grade for his day’s work, by far the best mark of the Steelers’ defense. Only a missed tackle marred an excellent outing, and even that came after beating his man to blow up the run in the backfield, only to stumble into the running back and have him bounce off before he could regain himself and make the stop.
Things did not go well when I am talking about a kicker in this spot. It’s not necessarily that there were few other standout performances for Pittsburgh, though in truth there weren’t that many more, but Shaun Suisham missed a pair of kicks that have to be considered gimmie kicks at this level, outdoors or no. Suisham missed from inside 35-yards twice, skewing both kicks off to the right when the Steelers were looking to end drives with points. The Raiders may have been comfortably the better side for most of the game, but in the end the difference between the two teams on the score sheet was smaller than the number of points left out on the field by Suisham’s poor kicking.
Oakland — Three Performances of Note
I have to confess, I love watching Terrelle Pryor. It’s like watching early-era Michael Vick, only supersized. He has athleticism to burn, and is at his best when things break down and he can improvise, but shows just enough with his arm within a structured offense to be dangerous there too. Sadly in this game Pryor missed too many throws he should have had, sailing a few passes and getting himself into trouble. The fact he had easily more rushing yardage than he did passing is never a good sign. Being early-era Vick plus 120% is all well and good, but the thing that always held Vick back from becoming a top quarterback and not just an exciting draw under center was the fact that he never really developed what he could do within a structured offense. Pryor needs to start doing that. We’re still very early in his career, so there’s no sense labeling what he can or can’t do going forward, but he will need to improve in that area to succeed long-term.
The Steelers are struggling on the line, and not because they lost Pouncey for the season. They’ve been struck with a series of injuries that have left them endlessly shuffling their line as people drop. Going that deep into a depth chart is never a good thing, but it has the added effect on the O-line of destroying cohesion and chemistry that is vital for an offensive line to function. The two defenders for the Raiders that feasted the most against that reworked line were Lamarr Houston (+3.6) and Vance Walker (+2.4). The pair combined for two sacks and 13 additional hurries, and often came at Roethlisberger at the same time, from the same side; collapsing the left side of the Pittsburgh line with regularity. Houston in particular was giving the Steelers fits with a stunt around Walker from his DRE spot and firing up the middle.
Khalif Barnes at this point in his career is getting by on veteran savvy and experience. On some days that is enough, such as this game against the Steelers where it helped him keep a clean sheet pass protecting, but on other days it isn’t even close. In Week 6 he was abused by the Chiefs and Tamba Hali in particular who was just far too much for him to handle at LT. The contrast to Barnes of course is Lucas Nix, who seems lost in a world with little savvy and not much experience. At LG this season he has graded in the red for every game he has played in, and graded at -4.8 or worse three times, including in this game where his final tally was a -5.0. This was the first game, however, where Nix wasn’t responsible for a sack, though he did cough up three pressures as he struggled to contain Keisel.
– Ben Roethlisberger was pressured on 16 snaps and passed for just 23 yards on those snaps.
– The Steelers seemed to ad-lib more than many teams against the Raiders’ option with Pryor under center, causing a gaping hole for his 93-yard run as three Steelers took themselves out of the play entirely playing the fake.
– Le’Veon Bell only notched 23 yards on 13 carries, but he gained 27 after contact, meaning the O-line generated him -3!
PFF Game Ball
Pryor broke the game open early, but it was the pressure of Vance Walker and Lamarr Houston who kept the Steelers at bay, they share the game ball.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam