After an impressive 23-16 victory against the Buffalo Bills, the Pittsburgh Steelers return home to the North Shore in week 2. With that said however, this isn’t your typical home opener. This will be the first time the Steelers will play in front of a full Heinz Field crowd since December 15th, 2019 in regular season action. Throughout the week, players have been talking about how this will feel so much different than what they’ve experienced before and know that Steeler Nation will be loud and ready. But the Las Vegas Raiders are coming to town after an impressive week 1 victory of their own and are looking to carry that momentum into Pittsburgh.
Let’s take a look at some things we can look forward to.
MATCHUPS AT A GLANCE
Offense: The Steelers are going from facing a strong defense in Buffalo to facing a Raiders defense that was ranked 30th in overall defense in 2020. The Raiders gave up 189 yards rushing to the Baltimore Ravens last week (albeit 86 of those yards was from Lamar Jackson) and seemed to have trouble with their rush defense. Although Najee Harris didn’t look “spectacular” in his first NFL game, look for him to have his coming out party on Sunday. The Steelers’ new offensive line now has a full game under its belt and they’re starting to build some cohesion. Of course, the Steelers are also going to look to build upon their wide receiver success from week 1, but I see week 2 as being Harris’ day and scoring his first touchdown against the home crowd.
Defense: Raiders’ tight end Darren Waller has solidified himself as one of the best tight ends in the entire NFL. Against the Ravens, Waller caught 10 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Derek Carr likes to spread the ball out to every player on the field, but sees Waller as his primary target almost every play. When I think of an elite tight end facing the Steelers, I have flashbacks to last season when the Steelers allowed 98 yards and a touchdown to the Washington Football Team‘s Logan Thomas. Or when the Steelers allowed 88 yards to the Indianapolis Colts’ tight ends in week 16. Covering tight ends has always been the Achilles heel in Pittsburgh. For the Steelers to shut down the Raiders’ offense, look for Joe Schobert to follow Waller all over the field with Terrell Edmunds helping over the top. If the Steelers take Waller out of the pass attack, they will be successful in getting off the field.
The Raiders have always had the Steelers’ number. No matter the records, who is coaching, where the game is, or who is playing quarterback, the Raiders always come to play against the Steelers. Right now, the spread is set in favor of the Steelers at 6.5 points. I think that is far too many points. This will be a back-and-forth game and will take all four quarters. Ultimately, I think the Steelers will capture their second win with the help of the home crowd and Renegade. Final score prediction, 31-28 Steelers.
The Raiders lead the Steelers all time with a 16-13 record. Since 2000, the Steelers are 5-6 against the Raiders. As I mentioned earlier, the point differential in games’ past has been close. So much that, six of the last eight games between the Raiders and Steelers have been decided by three or fewer points. Since 2010, the Steelers are 8-3 in home openers, with the three losses coming in 2019, 2018, and 2013. The Steelers have faired well at home in September historically, but are 2-6 against the Raiders in the month of September. Call me pessimistic, but this game is going to be a lot closer than what people think. We are going to learn a lot about both teams in this week’s competition.
What are you watching for tomorrow? What do you think the final outcome will be? Let us know in the comments below!