Steelers vs. Raiders: Pittsburgh faces third straight strong run defense in Oakland

Vincent Pugliese

The Raiders have done a decent job stopping the run this season. They can expect a run-first mentality when facing the Steelers Sunday. It's the third straight game the Steelers have against a top 10-ranked run defense.

After the Steelers' bye in Week 5, they faced the run-adverse New York Jets defense, at the time, the league's 8th best run-stopping unit at 95 yards per game.

They didn't rush for much, but they managed to defeat the Jets 19-6 on the strength of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and two takeaways from its defense.

Week 7 saw the NFL's ninth-ranked run defense, the Baltimore Ravens, allowing under triple-digits on the ground. The Steelers emerged victorious, this time, on the backs of their offensive line, who carved up the Ravens' front seven en route to a season-high 143 rushing yards.

The Steelers travel to Oakland in Week 8, facing the league's 10th-best run defense, the Raiders, who are allowing 99 yards per game. With the Steelers' running game heating up, facing another staunch statistically-impressive run defense should be exactly what they want to see.

According to ESPN's Paul Gutierrez, the Raiders are a surprising 0-10 after bye weeks, losing by an average score of 27-14 since 2002 - the year the Raiders went to the Super Bowl. It almost seems like a team would have to actively plan to lose a game in which they have two weeks to prepare to play. And with a quarterback who's essentially a rookie - Pittsburgh area native Terrelle Pryor - it's tough to figure their record improving this season.

But a team with a tough run defense and an athletic quarterback who can make plays off schedule, game-planning becomes critical. The Steelers have put back-to-back solid performances on the defensive side of the ball, if not for a few cracks here and there.

Oakland's run defense numbers are strong, but they're facing 26.3 rushing attempts per game - 19th highest in the NFL. As a team, the Raiders are allowing 3.8 yards per carry, which is tied for 12th in the league.

The NFL is a league of where you are going more than where you've been, so the Steelers rushing numbers obviously don't stack up. Based on the success they had in Week 7 against Baltimore, though, the Raiders can expect the Steelers to have a run-first game plan in store when they kick off from O.co Coliseum Sunday.

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