When the Steelers take the field on Sunday, they will have an idea of what players and plays will be successful in any given situation vs. the Las Vegas Raiders. Some route concept could perfectly gash them on the third and long, or maybe a blitz will have a 100% success rate when the Raiders are in the red zone. It could be anything, but NFL coaches are always dialed in when it comes to scouting opponents.
One of these areas for game planning that is also widely seen by fans is the one-on-one battles between mismatched players. Below are the offensive and defensive player mismatches the Steelers will find the most success in.
T.J. Watt vs. Alex Leatherwood
T.J. Watt was a one man wrecking crew against the Buffalo Bills, he was in Josh Allen’s face all game and recorded a pair of sacks. Alex Leatherwood on the other hand was systematically pulled apart by the Baltimore Ravens, giving up sacks to the likes of Justin Houston and others. Simply put, the Raiders starting rookie tackle struggled in pass protection.
Having a talent like T.J. Watt should also mean that Watt should dominate his one-on-one matchups, but also see a ton of double teams and chip blocks on obvious passing downs. When an offense has to shift multiple blockers to stop a defender it usually means one-on-one matchups will open up across the board. This would mean Cam Heyward and Alex Highsmith could have monstrous games. Leaving Leatherwood on an island however might just get Derek Carr killed. Bottom line is Watt should be extending his sack numbers again on Sunday.
Najee Harris vs. Raiders defensive interior
Najee Harris struggled to a degree against the Bills front seven. Most of the reason for that was a slow start by the offensive line, but Harris showed flashes of excellence throughout the game. Taking on the Raiders should be an entirely new page for Harris however. Najee will face a noticeably weaker front, in a friendly environment. Add the fact that the offensive line should improve week to week, Harris’ breakout game could be on the upcoming horizon.
One of the things the Steelers need to do against the Raiders is establish the run and Harris should get a healthy percentage of the work load. Getting this kid going and getting the offensive line’s confidence heading in the right direction is extremely important for the early portion of the season, and they could find some of that here in Week 2.
But what do you think? Will T.J. Watt and Najee Harris have big games against the Las Vegas Raiders? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.