The Steelers will try to get to 2-1 on the season when they travel to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders, a team they haven’t beaten on the road since 1995.
Ahead of the matchup, I spoke with Matt Holder of Silver and Black Pride to answer these five questions.
1. Is there an offensive player on the Steelers roster that worries you?
George Pickens worries me. The Raiders corners haven’t been good so far this season as Marcus Peters hasn’t looked quite like himself and it seems like rookie Jakorian Bennett’s head is spinning as he’s had a few coverage busts. Also, Bennett has struggled against physical route-runners like Pickens, which was one of his issues coming out of college as he’s only 5’11” and 195 pounds. Las Vegas might have to dive into their depth chart at corner this week which likely means David Long Jr. gets more snaps than he has been getting. It doesn’t help that they haven’t gotten much pass rush out of their defensive line outside of Maxx Crosby either, and Pickens is coming off an impressive performance against the Browns.
2. What has the Raiders secondary looked like this season compared to 2022?
Safety Tre’von Moehrig has been one of the most-improved players on the team so far as he struggled last season but has looked much more comfortable in year two with defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Moehrig’s running mate, Marcus Epps, has also been sharp and, to me, was their best player against the Bills, including Crosby and Davante Adams. As mentioned above, cornerback is still a question mark with Peters and Bennett not playing well, but Nate Hobbs has been much better this season as their nickelback. Overall, I’d say the Raiders’ secondary is improved from last season but still has some work to do.
3. How confident are fans in Jimmy Garoppolo’s ability to help them win games?
It kind of depends on who you ask as a lot of the fanbase is split on how they feel about Garoppolo. Personally, I think he’s more of a game manager and don’t really trust him to be the reason they win games. The first two games of the season are good examples. Against the Broncos, the defense played pretty well and Jimmy G was good enough to get the win with 17 points on the board in six possessions. However, when they played the Bills’ explosive offense that put up 38 points, Garoppolo wasn’t good enough to keep the Raiders even close to matching that pace. He also has shown happy feet in the pocket and has been turning down potential shots down the field which is part of where my game manager comment stems from.
4. Is this a make-or-break game for Patrick Graham?
This game in particular, no. Las Vegas’ defense was strong in Denver and did have a letdown in Buffalo, but I don’t think they’ll be making a change like that this early in the season. The Raiders also have a lot of new players on defense so some struggles early in the year are somewhat expected as they did have a few coverage breaks last week. It is a make-or-break year for Graham though as I can see Josh McDaniels making him the scapegoat if the team doesn’t win enough games and the defense gives up as many points as it did a year ago.
5. The Over/Under for this game on Draftkings is 43. Which way are you leaning?
Under. Las Vegas has only scored 27 points in their first two games and they’d need at least that many on Sunday to hold up their end of the bargain for the 43-point total. Also, it kind of seems like Pittsburgh’s offense has been a bit of a mess as the ‘Fire Matt Canada’ chants seem to be getting louder and louder, and 14 of their 26 points last week came via defensive touchdowns. I think this will be an old-school Steelers-Raiders matchup that ends up being a low-scoring defensive battle similar to last season.