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NFL Betting: Steelers-Raiders Preview

Posted by Stan Jenkins on 10/23/2013 3:26:25 PM

The American Football Conference possesses a few storied rivalries that do not exist within a division. The New England Patriots developed a rivalry with the Indianapolis Colts and are now developing a rivalry with the Denver Broncos now that Peyton Manning has switched teams. The rivalry between the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens owns a measure of poignancy since the Colts left Baltimore 30 years ago. Yet, of all the rivalries in the AFC that aren’t contained within a division, the most historically treasured rivalry is the one between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders, the two teams who met so often in the AFC playoffs in the 1970s and formed a very rich part of the history of professional football in the United States.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Oakland Raiders

Odds: Steelers -2.5

Total: 40.5

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders, at their best, commanded the respect of opponents in the 1970s because they played bonecrushing defense. The Steelers’ great teams with Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, L.C. Greenwood (who recently died), and Mean Joe Greene went up against the Raiders’ nasty defense, led by the likes of Jack Tatum, Ted Hendricks, Willie Brown, and Lester Hayes. Steeler-Raider games were fierce, and they carried the AFC through the 1970s. The Miami Dolphins had their electric three-year run from 1971 through 1973, but for most of the decade, the Steelers and the Raiders were the teams who battled for the AFC championship. Defense was the foundation for the two franchises’ rise to the top level of the sport.

This Sunday, one should expect a lot more defense from these two teams, although the dominance of defense will be more a product of the extent to which each team’s offense has fallen apart this season. The Steelers did finally break into the win column two weeks ago against the New York Jets, but only because Pittsburgh’s defense smothered the Jets from start to finish. The Steelers’ offense continued to settle for field goals, failing to reach 20 points on yet another occasion. Ben Roethlisberger just isn’t the same at this stage in his career. “Big Ben” is lacking the mobility (with his legs) and the touch on deep-intermediate routes that made him such an outstanding quarterback in his heyday, which lasted through Super Bowl XLV in the 2010 season. The Steelers are grasping at the past, trying to rediscover their offense, but they’re not finding it. The Raiders should be able to hold Pittsburgh in check.

Oakland, though, is going to have a very tough time scoring against Pittsburgh. The Raiders are a disorganized team on offense, with Terrelle Pryor trying to find his way in the NFL and enjoying occasional but limited success. Pryor should be a sitting duck for the Steelers’ veteran defense and coordinator Dick LeBeau, one of the very best in the business. LeBeau should be able to create a scheme that will confuse Pryor and lead to turnovers that Pittsburgh can turn into points.

Prediction

It’s true that the Raiders are at home, but the Steelers’ defense enjoys a big advantage against Oakland’s offense. That’s going to swing the pendulum in favor of Pittsburgh.

Pick: Steelers -2.5

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