Photo credit: @mohurstjr
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
OAKLAND, Calif. — In a game that was originally set for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, the Raiders will complete their two-game homestand when they will take on the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum this Sunday in a classic AFC tilt. Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. PT on FOX.
The Steelers are making their first trip to Oakland since 2013, where they lost the Raiders 21-18. Oakland holds a slim 12-10 record over Pittsburgh all-time in 22 meetings, and are riding a three-game winning streak over the Steelers at home.
Oakland (2-10) lost to their bitter AFC West rival, the Kansas City Chiefs in a 40-33 shootout last Sunday at home in Week 13. The Raiders’ offense was humming, with big performances by quarterback Derek Carr, tight end Jared Cook, wide receiver Jordy Nelson, and running back Jalen Richard.
Carr threw for 285 yards on 29-of-38 passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions. With his 14th completion of the day, Carr moved into second place in NFL history for most completions (1,655) through a player’s first five years, trailing only Peyton Manning (1,749) with four games remaining this season per the Elias Sports Bureau. Carr also moved into second place on the all-time passing list for the franchise with 17,802 yards, passing Rich Gannon.
Cook hauled in his sixth touchdown catch of the season, establishing a new career-high. The tight end finished with seven catches for 100 yards. Nelson tied a team season-high 10 catches in the game, six of them going for first downs.
Richard showed great versatility against the Chiefs, finishing with 126 yards from scrimmage, including a career-high 95 yards on the ground on six carries for a 15.8 yards per carry average for the game.
But it wasn’t all great for Oakland offensively, as the team fumbled the ball four times (losing three), all coming from Richard and fellow running backs Doug Martin and DeAndre Washington.
The addition of running back C.J. Anderson, whom the team signed on Wednesday for depth, will be interesting to watch down the home stretch of the regular season.
Anderson, a six-year veteran who is just 27-years-old, was most recently with the Carolina Panthers this season appearing in just nine games with just 24 carries for 104 yards. Anderson signed with Carolina in the offseason after being released by the Denver Broncos.
In his first five seasons with the Denver Broncos from 2013-17, Anderson rushed for 3,051 yards and 20 touchdowns on 693 carries while earning a Super Bowl ring in 2015. During his final season in Denver, Anderson rushed for a career-high 1,007 yards and three touchdowns on 245 carries while starting all 16 games.
Pittsburgh enters Sunday’s contest losers of their last two games, the most recent to the visiting Los Angeles Chargers 33-30 at Heinz Field on Sunday Night Football. The Steelers (7-4-1) sit atop the AFC North heading into the final month of the regular season.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leads an offense that ranks fourth in the NFL in scoring, averaging 28.8 points per game. Through 12 games this season, Roethlisberger leads the NFL in passing yards (3,945) to go along with 26 touchdowns, but his 13 interceptions are second-most behind Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold’s 14 for most in the league.
The bulk of the Steelers’ areal attack is highlighted by their explosive wide receivers in Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
The duo has combined for 164 catches (Smith-Schuster leads the team with 83 to Brown’s 81), for 2,132 yards (Smith-Schuster leads the team with 1,104 to Brown’s 1,028), and 16 touchdowns (Brown has 12 to Smith-Schuster’s 4).
Second-year running back James Connor has filled the shoes of dynamic running back Le’Veon Bell nicely this season. While Bell has sat out the entire season in a contract dispute with the organization, Connor is seventh in the NFL in rushing with 909 yards and 12 touchdowns on 201 carries.
Connor is third on the team with 52 catches.
Connor will miss Sunday’s game after suffering an ankle injury in Week 13 to the Chargers.
Following Sunday’s game, the Raiders will travel to Cincinnati to clash with the Bengals in Week 15 to round out the AFC North portion of their schedule for 2018. Oakland will return home to face the Broncos on Christmas Eve in Week 16.
Pittsburgh will return home for a big AFC showdown with the New England Patriots in Week 15 before heading down to New Orleans to face off the Saints in Week 16.