Steelers and Raiders both have room to improve heading into Sunday night matchup

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Friday, September 22, 2023


Sunday, 8:20 p.m. EDT, NBC

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Pittsburgh 1-1; Las Vegas 1-1.

SERIES RECORD: Raiders lead 17-14.

LAST MEETING: Steelers won 13-10 last season in Pittsburgh.

LAST WEEK: Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns 26-22; Raiders lost 38-10 at the Buffalo Bills.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Steelers plus-1; Raiders minus-4.

STEELERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Kenny Pickett. Pickett pulled off a last-minute game-winning drive to edge the Raiders in Pittsburgh last Christmas Eve, the first real signs that he had the potential to become a franchise quarterback. Yet the leap Steelers coach Mike Tomlin expected from Pickett in his second season has instead looked more like a step back. Pickett is completing just 60% (46 of 76) of his passes and has looked shaky under pressure.

RAIDERS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Josh Jacobs. After missing training camp over a contract dispute, Jacobs said he would be more rested than his teammates who went through the grind of 100-degree practices. He might avoided the preseason wear and tear, but Jacobs had averaged 1.6 yards on 28 carries. Maybe this will be Jacobs' breakout game. The Raiders need it to be just that.

KEY MATCHUP: Steelers offensive line vs. Raiders defensive line. Pittsburgh's offensive line has struggled and Las Vegas, outside of DE Maxx Crosby, can't get into opposing backfields. This could be an opportunity for the Steelers to finally establish a run game and give Pickett time to throw. Or it could be Raiders chance to disrupt an offense.

KEY INJURIES: Pittsburgh WR Gunner Olszewski (concussion) did not practice Thursday and S Minkah Fitzpatrick (chest) was limited. Las Vegas CB Jakorian Bennett (hamstring) and DT Bilal Nichols (hamstring/hand) were limited in practice.

SERIES Game notes

Even with last season's Steelers victory, the Raiders have had the upper hand recently, winning six of the past nine meetings. ... Pittsburgh has especially struggled in this series when the Steelers have had to go on the road. The Steelers' last beat the Raiders outside of Pittsburgh in 1995. ... This is the first meeting in Las Vegas. ... Last season's game was QB Derek Carr's last start in a Raiders uniform. He was benched four days later and signed with the New Orleans Saints in the offseason.

STATS AND STUFF: The Raiders scored a touchdown on the opening drive of each of the first two games. That's the first time they have done that since 1989. Those two drives account for more points (14) than Las Vegas has scored in the other series combined (13). ... Las Vegas is the only team that has not given up a sack this season. This is the second time the Raiders have not allowed a sack through the first two games, the other time occurring in 1977. ... LB Robert Spillane played the past four seasons for the Steelers. He leads the Raiders with 21 tackles, including two tackles for loss and a sack. ... K Daniel Carlson is three points shy of 600. Only five other Raiders have accomplished that. ... The Raiders are two victories short of 500 in franchise history. Nine other teams have reached that mark. ... WR Davante Adams has receptions in 117 consecutive games, the NFL's fifth-longest active streak. ... Steelers LBs T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith became the first teammates to get a sack and score a touchdown in the same game since the sack became an official statistic in 1982 when both of them reached the end zone last week against Cleveland. ... Watt and Highsmith's touchdowns compensated for a defense that struggled against the running game for a second straight week. The Steelers have allowed 386 yards on the ground through two games, worst in the NFL. ... While Pittsburgh has dominated on "Monday Night Football" (last week's victory over the Browns improved their home winning streak on Monday night to 21), things are a little more even on Sunday nights. The Steelers are 31-27 on Sunday nights, including 20-15 under Mike Tomlin. ... Pittsburgh has struggled when playing out West for years. The Steelers are 20-37 in the Pacific time zone. ... This is the first of three trips out West for Pittsburgh, who plays at the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 22 and at Seattle on Dec. 31. ... The Steelers have struggled to get anything going on offense, particularly early in games. Pittsburgh needed five drives to earn a first down against San Francisco in Week 1. It took four drives to get a first down in Week 2. Pittsburgh's 24 first downs are last in the NFL through two weeks. ... Against the Browns the Steelers became just the second team since 1991 to win a game it was trailing in the fourth quarter despite having negative yardage over the final 15 minutes. ... Watt is the only player in NFL history to get at least 80 sacks and 15 takeaways in his first 100 games. Sunday night will be Watt's 90th game in the NFL.

FANTASY TIP: Steelers RB Najee Harris. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons, but has just 74 yards through two games this season. The Raiders allow 4.9 yards per rush, so if Harris is to get going, this could be the time he does it.



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