The Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders are getting ready to square off at 4:25 p.m. ET in Week 14, and to get a better idea of what black-and-gold fans can expect from the Raiders when they visit the black hole, I reached out to Levi Damien, editor of Sliver and Black Pride, SB Nation’s Raiders website, to get a feel for what is going on on the other side of the fence.
I was able to ask him a few questions, and you can check out his answers below.
The Raiders are certainly an ‘interesting’ team this year. What is the fan base’s thoughts on Jon Gruden and the direction of the team?
I suppose there are some interesting things about this team. In the eye-brow-raise kind of way. Trade away the best defender in the league and then watch in wonder as the pass rush becomes historically bad and players start pleading for to be released or traded before midseason. There are, of course, a wide array of opinions about Jon Gruden and the directions of the team. Not everyone couples Gruden with their displeasure at the direction of the team. There have been some reports/rumors lately that perhaps it was Mark Davis who made the decision to trade Mack because he thought the team offered a fair offer and Mack’s agent, Joel Segal, balked. Gruden sure wasn’t making moves back in March and April that suggested the team was headed for another rebuild. But once Mack was traded, the rebuild was in full effect. Soon another former Reggie McKenzie top pick (Amari Cooper) was traded for a first round pick as well, removing two of the former building blocks of this team. We don’t know if Gruden has the ability to build a team up practically from scratch.
A lot has gone wrong in Oakland, but what has gone right? What are some positives Steelers fans should know/be concerned about heading into Sunday’s game?
The positives are Jared Cook and the cornerbacks. Other areas have had their moments, but not consistently. Derek Carr is coming off his best performance of the season against the Chiefs and their bad defense, but he hasn’t performed well against more stout defenses.
The Steelers haven’t won in Oakland since 1995. What are some reasons the Raiders can pull off yet another upset?
Carr will have to shake off what is sure to be another several sacks and stand tall in the pocket, when a pocket is there. That’s pretty much the key to everything for the Raiders. That may seem simplistic considering he plays the most important position in football, but that’s what it comes down to. The two rookie tackles aren’t going to help him out much. He was sacked three times last week against the Chiefs, and still managed to help Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook have big days while throwing for 3 touchdowns. The defense is not going to step up and make his life easier. If the Raiders are to have a chance, it will be because they won a high scoring game.
How do you think the Raiders will try and slow down the high-powered Pittsburgh offense?
They aren’t getting any pressure on Roethisberger, so he will have a lot of time to find a receiver. Tahir Whitehead will probably spy Roethlisberger a good portion of the time. From there it’s the corners trying to blanket the receivers to force Roethlisberger to either leave the pocket, or give the Raiders plate tectonic speed pass rushers time to get to him to force a bad throw or something.