Steelers Vs. Raiders Preview: Oakland Looks To Find Some Offensive Balance

September 9, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton (98) before the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 31-19. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

The Steelers are 4-8 when playing the Raiders on the road, with the last one being a 20-13 Oakland win in 2006.

Obviously, those teams are a bit different now. One thing they have in common, though, is the lack of ability to run the football consistently.

The Steelers and Raiders rank 30th and 31st in the NFL, respectively, in rushing yards per game (70.5 and 34.0), and are 30th and 32nd, respectively, in yards per carry (2.6 and 2.0).

Week 3 Coverage: | Steelers Out West | Run Game | Carson Palmer | Raiders At A Glance |Oakland CBs | Five Burning Questions | Four Best Hours | Thursday Injury Report | Replacement Officials
When Oakland has the ball:

The Steelers' run defense has not been at the level we've seen it in recent years. The Jets gashed them for 4.1 yards per carry in Week 2 and the Broncos ran effectively in doses in Week 1, helping to keep the safeties on their toes. Expect Oakland to attempt the same kind of strategy - even if their running game has been abysmal through two games.

They're going to need to try to duplicate what Denver did if they want to get quarterback Carson Palmer and his receivers some room to work. Look for a battle between Raiders C Stefan Wisniewski and guards Mike Brisel and Cooper Carlisle and Steelers base nose tackle Casey Hampton. Neither side has performed well to this point this season, and both will be challenged to improve in this game.

When Pittsburgh has the ball:

If they've been waiting for a breakout game from their beleaguered running unit, this one is a good opportunity. Oakland has been equally gashed on the ground, allowing 147 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry. While the Steelers' failures on the ground have been as much their own doing as their opponents, a strong week of practice and more repetition to work out kinks could give them a boost on the ground.

Expect the Steelers to approach this game with balance in mind. They'll likely run the ball on early downs to set up advantages against Oakland's depleted secondary and the Steelers' trio of outstanding receivers. The Raiders don't have the players to stick with the Steelers in man coverage, and will employ mostly zone against them. Expect the Steelers to use Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger conservatively, knowing the key will be to possess the ball and move the chains.

Raiders Special Teams:

Oakland's return units are decent, with punt returner Phillip Adams displaying some ability so far this year. The real concern, though, is they have the best kicker and punter combination in the NFL. P Shane Lechler is consistently the best in the game, and is arguably one of the best of all time. The Raiders can be dangerous in low-scoring games of field position.

Sebastian Janikowski still has one of the strongest legs in the game, and can hit field goals of 50+ yards with ease. The Steelers shouldn't expect many returns on kickoffs, either. He'll bang it through the back of the end zone with the best of them.

Steelers Special Teams:

Steelers K Shaun Suisham hit twin 45-yard field goals last week, as he is off to a strong start in 2012. His kickoffs have been solid as well, and to this point, he's erased some of the doubt cast over him before this season.

Rookie P Drew Butler has been impressive as well, with four of his eight punts landing inside the opponents' 20-yard line with no touchbacks. While his gross (43.4) and net (39.) averages are 29th and 16th best, respectively, in the NFL, his placement has been outstanding in his first season.



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