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The Steelers game against the Raiders might not be do or die, but it’s a must-win

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Are the Steelers a dominant team? No. Are they good enough to defeat the Raiders, make the playoffs and do some damage once they get there? Yes. And that means a loss on Sunday simply cannot and will not happen.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Fans are funny, in that they always tend to think the worst about their favorite football team.

Take Steelers fans, for example. After two-straight losses that have left the Steelers at 7-4-1, many are now predicting a total collapse that will leave them on the outside looking in when the playoffs kickoff in about a month.

According to many, Pittsburgh hasn’t defeated a good team yet this year—including the Ravens. However, Baltimore has won a few games in a row, and despite a really tough schedule over the last month, one that includes trips to Kansas City and Los Angeles to take on the Chiefs and Chargers, there’s now a strong belief (or is it an irrational fear?) John Harbaugh will find a way to overtake the Steelers in the AFC North.

The Steelers, meanwhile, will not only take it on the chin against their two toughest opponents over the final month of the regular season—the Patriots and Saints—they will lose to the 2-10 Raiders Sunday afternoon at Oakland Alameda Coliseum.

You see, the Steelers never play well in Oakland or against the Raiders—at least not when things are going poorly for Pittsburgh.

In 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2013, the Steelers lost to Raiders teams that won a total of 17 games, which means they lost a total of 47. Perhaps not coincidentally, Pittsburgh failed to make the playoffs after each of those seasons.

Three of those losses came in Oakland and were rather ugly, which is probably why fans are concerned about Sunday afternoon’s kickoff at 4:25.

But I wouldn’t be too concerned if I were you. This is a really bad Raiders team that doesn’t do a whole lot well in just about any category. They don’t pass well. They don’t run well. They don’t stop the pass. They don’t stop the run. They don’t get after the quarterback at all. They don’t protect the quarterback at all.

This is a game the Steelers should win and do so going away.

I don’t want to hear about any of those previous losses to the Raiders. Even 2013 was a long time ago. As for 2006, Facebook was still behind Myspace in the social media war, and JuJu Smith-Schuster was nine-years old at the time Pittsburgh’s loss to the Raiders took place. And I’d be worried about all of those interceptions Ben Roethlisberger threw that day if Hines Ward and Cedrick Wilson were still on the team, and he was being protected by the likes of Alan Faneca and Marvel Smith.

In other words, that’s all ancient history and has about as much to do with Sunday’s match-up as Franco Harris, Frenchy Fuqua and Jack Tatum.

I realize the Steelers have issues. I realize they’ll be missing James Conner at running back. But there is no reason Pittsburgh should lose this football game to this football team.

People want to forget recent history and act like the Steelers have been scuffling all season. But the fact is, they looked rusty over the first month, unstoppable over the next month or so and really sloppy over the past three weeks.

The Steelers are what their record says they are, which is about a 10-win team. Totally dominant? No. Good enough to beat the Raiders and maybe even the Patriots and/or Saints? Yes. Good enough to make it to the playoffs and perhaps do some damage once they get there? Absolutely.

Keeping the focus on Oakland. There is no way the leadership on this Steelers’ team—including the coaches and veteran players—can allow a loss to happen on Sunday. With everything on the line and with everything that’s at stake, collectively, this group must stand up and say, “No, we cannot allow this to happen again, not this season!”

If the Steelers have the heart of a champion (or at least a contender), they must go to Oakland and take care of business.

I believe they do and they will.

Steelers 38, Raiders 17.