Mike Tomlin matches wits with Jon Gruden in Sunday’s AFC showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Las Vegas Raiders. If you missed the Monday Night Football spectacle between the Raiders and Baltimore Ravens, I suggest you go back and watch as soon as possible. A wild and wacky game led to a spectacular finish with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr throwing a game-winning touchdown pass to Zay Jones to ice it in overtime.
Meanwhile, the Steelers pulled off a stunner at Highmark Stadium by knocking off last season’s AFC title contending Buffalo Bills.
Line Movements & Weather
The Steelers have gone from -5.5 up to -6 while snatching up 61% of the bets.
The OU line has gone from 49 down to 47 or 46.5, depending on the sportsbook you frequent the most with the bets split down the middle.
Gametime Weather: Sunny skies with temps around 80
Are the Raiders legit?Whether you were watching the original broadcast or the Manning brothers, you witnessed a Monday Night Football classic between the Raiders and Baltimore Ravens. Just ask Eli Manning, who sat through an entire fire alarm to watch the game.
A fire alarm went off when Peyton and Eli Manning were providing analysis for MNF.— Gridiron (@Gridiron) September 14, 2021
“Eli, what did you do?” 😂🤣pic.twitter.com/zS8J9vk3au
There’s obviously a lot of excitement for Raider fans combined with some serious skepticism following their 33-27 overtime win over the Ravens. The team that showed up on that night looked like a group capable of making big plays in key moments. They were able to overcome adversity and fight back enough to knock off a perennial playoff contender. Derek Carr threw for 435 yards and two touchdowns, and the defense forced the game-changing turnover.
Is this Raiders team for real?
We’ll find out on Sunday as they head on the road for a game against another AFC North contender in the Steelers. Carr got knocked around quite a bit in the pocket in Week 1, but that’s to be expected for a quarterback that dropped back to pass 56 times. If you want to be a swimmer, you’re going to get wet. If you want to be a quarterback that drops back 50-plus times in an NFL game, you’re going to get hit.
But you don’t want it happening all of the time, especially against this Steelers defense. That front-seven can create the sort of havoc that could ruin the game for the Raiders. Carr will have to continue making quick and accurate decisions with the ball in his hands. It would obviously help if they could get the run game going. Yes, Josh Jacobs’ two touchdowns might have been fantasy football relevant, but they weren’t relevant in regards to the Raiders being a contender. They need to get him more than 10 touches to establish some balance, even against some of the better run defenses.
The defensive element with the Raiders is what could really make them a pain to deal with for opponents. Their sack percentage (9.09) soared into the top-five category in Week 1. If they can get pressure on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the aging legend will likely reward them with an interception or two.
The Raiders might have to overcome the injury bug with Jacobs (now out) and even backup quarterback Marcus Mariota (doubtful) popping up on the injury report for this week. (Mariota is now on the IR, so Nathan Peterman will be the backup).
Out - QB Marcus Mariota, DB Roderic Teamer Jr., LB Nick Kwiatkoski, OG Richie Incognito, RB Josh Jacobs, DT Gerald McCoy, OG Denzelle Good, RB Jalen Richard, DB Keisean Nixon, LB Javin White, and LB Nicholas Morrow
Questionable - LB Denzel Perryman
Steelers aren’t done yetIt’s easy to forget the Steelers are still a legitimate contender in the AFC. Yes, they made the playoffs last season, but that still doesn’t change the fact that their organization has been looked at as a sinking ship over the last few years.
Legendary quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been banged up and on the fence about retiring. JuJu Smith-Schuster hasn’t really lived up to the bill as a true No. 1 receiver for the team after their breakup with future Hall of Famer Antonio Brown. And there hasn’t really been that running back that imposed the sort of fear Le’Veon Bell did when he was coming out of the offensive backfield.
The Steelers were beginning to look like that outdated outfit you still wore every week with the hope that someday it’d come back in style.
But that clearly might not be the case anymore after they knocked off the Buffalo Bills on the road in the opener. That was an incredible victory that isn’t getting enough recognition. If anything, it proved the Steelers can still be a contender when they’re healthy. It also proved they’ll be a problem for the Raiders on Sunday.
There’s nothing T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward love more than a quarterback dropping back to pass for a lopsided portion of the snaps. Those plays put the quarterback at risk of being left on an island by his offensive line and directly in the scope of one of the fiercest pass rushes in the league. The Steelers should be persistent with the pressure, but they also have to watch the dump-off passes to the running backs and Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller. It’s no secret that Waller is the team’s best receiver and a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
On the offensive side of the ball, it’s all about Roethlisberger not turning the ball over. That’s what ultimately did Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in against the Raiders. This game should be all about making plays and limiting the boneheaded mistakes that can prove costly.
Oh, and feed Najee Harris. The rookie running back is prime for a big afternoon against a defense that gave up 189 rushing yards and two touchdowns in Week 1. Pittsburgh’s run game isn’t nearly as flashy as Baltimore’s, but they can get creative with their play-calling enough to ensure Harris has more touches than he had in the opener.
It's important to note that the Steelers could be without tight end Eric Ebron and defensive tackle Carlos Davis for this game.
Out - DT Carlos Davis, QB Joshua Dobbs, OT Zach Banner, RB Anthony McFarland Jr., and DE Stephon Tuitt
Questionable - LB Devin Bush, DB Joe Haden, and QB Dwayne Haskins Jr.
The top supporting trends for this game, found on Covers.com, are:
- Raiders are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing more than 150 yards rushing in their previous game.
- Raiders are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games after accumulating less than 90 yards rushing in their previous game.
- Raiders are 7-17 ATS in their last 24 games following a straight up win.
- Raiders are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games overall.
- Steelers are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games following a straight up win.
- Steelers are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games on grass.
- Steelers are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games against teams in the AFC.
- Steelers are 17-8-1 ATS in their last 26 games following an ATS win.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Steelers looked to be in vintage form—at least defensively—in their opener against a tough Bills team on the road. There are still some legitimate questions regarding how much Ben Roethlisberger has left in the tank. That could be tested even further against a Raiders defense that brought pressure early and often against Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson last week.
But I’m expecting more of an old-school mentality with the Steelers pounding the ball on the ground against the Raiders. The Ravens still managed to rack up 189 rushing yards with both of their top-two options at running back on injured reserve. They were down to an undrafted second-year player, Ty’Son Williams, and a veteran, Latavius Murray, who was basically signed a few days before the game.
The Steelers have a legitimate thumper in the offensive backfield with rookie Najee Harris, who will have his coming-out party in this game. Bring the confetti and streamers because it’ll be less about Roethlisberger and the passing offense and more about the run game.
Derek Carr will run into trouble with time in the pocket when dealing with Pittsburgh’s ferocious pass rush. Not having Jacobs is going to limit them on the ground so Watt can tee off on Carr. He’s also dealing with a unit that had the No. 3-ranked rushing defense when playing at home last season.
There won’t be many lanes for Josh Jacobs and company to run through, and at some point, Carr is going to end up on an island and at the mercy of the Steelers’ defense.
I’m laying the points and taking Pittsburgh.
Full-Game Total Pick
This game is going to get messy with two aggressive defenses capable of causing turnovers. That will lead to several short field situations for both teams to take advantage of on Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger has weapons on the outside at receiver to hurt the Raiders, but he also has a first-round draft pick at running back with a ceiling that could be the highest at the position since Le’Veon Bell.
Najee Harris is going to make his presence felt in a big way against a Raiders defense that had issues against the run last week. To put it further into perspective, it’s a team that allowed an average 142.6 rushing yards per game when playing on the road last season.
So this isn’t simply a case of Lamar Jackson running wild on some defense. Give me the over in this game.