Friday, October 27, 2006

 

The Friday Five: Week 8 Preview - Steelers @ Raiders.


(The Burgh - October 27, 2006) - With nearly half the season over, the Steelers find themselves a few games under .500, along with a tough road ahead, including games against 5-1's Denver & New Orleans and 4-2's Baltimore (twice) & Cincinnati. That's 5 of the final 8 games against teams with a combined 22-8 record. Fortunately, 3 of those games are at Heinz Field - the only place Ws seem to be found this season.

As far as we're concerned, this week's game couldn't have come at a better time: the Steelers lost a heartbreak OT thriller to Atlanta last week, while the Raiders got their first taste of victory (so it is expected that the Men of Steel should be extremely hungry, while the Black & Silver will be coming off the high of that first win last week). Look for the Steelers (0-3 on the road this year) to just shellac the Raiders. Let's put it this way, this game won't remind any of yunz of the stellar battles between these two during the 1970s. It's a new millennium and Jumpsuit Al hasn't made the necessary adjustments to stay up with the times.

But, even though this is about as cupcake of a game as the Steelers will face all year, there are plenty of questions in Stillers Nation, including these five going into Sunday's game:

1. Sit or Play Big Ben? Some say it's a no-brainer: start him if he is medically cleared. What sort of message would you be giving the Raiders, and more importantly, Ben's teammates (not that they're worried he's gonna become the next Duce Staley), if he were to sit when the team is 2-4 and looking at being eliminated from the playoffs before Thanksgiving. On the other hand are the more cautious, who look at Big Ben's future as being more important than this season (or at least one game against one of the worst teams in the league). This guy will be playing for another 11-12 seasons, so why risk another concussion now? They say sit Benfor the start of the game and if he is needed, he is ready to play. If Batch can deliver a "W" (which he is capable of), then give Ben another week to heal before being thrown to the lions (or should we say, Broncos).

2. Kendall Simmons or Chris Kemoeatu? After dominating play in the Chiefs game, it looked as if Chris Kemoeatu was ready for more playing time. And after Big Ben got sandwiched last week against the Falcons, Kemoeatu replaced Simmons for the rest of the game. Now, the question is: who will start against the Raiders on Sunday? News is that Cowher is looking seriously at starting Kemoeatu, but one wonders.... If it ain't broke, why fix it? Over the past two years Simmons has played well, as part of one of the most consistent O-lines in the NFL. Maybe that freezer burn on his ankle that caused him to miss the Chiefs game in the first place was a sign of things ahead.

3. DeShea Townsend or Bryant McFadden? Just like the developing mid-season battle for RG, the starting RCB position also seems to be in play. In one corner (no pun intended) is the defending starter - DeShea Townsend; and in the other is 2nd year rising star, Bryant McFadden. This battle won't keep the other player off the field quite as much as the RG decision, since both players will be on the field during nickel and dime formations. But, after giving up 48 points last week to a defense that looked more like the Jarlsberg Steelers, changes are in store.

4. Where did Cedrick Go? Coming into the first week of the season, Cedrick Wilson was the #2 receiver. And looking on today's depth chart, he still is the #2 WR. However, over the past 2 weeks, Nate Washington and Santonio Holmes have been in the headlines alot more the Cedrick (although not always for good reasons). The question is: will Cedrick slowly move down to the #4 position over the coming weeks or will he find a way to hold onto #2?

5. Are the Raiders from the Dark Side? By the looks of it (see photo), the once feared Raiders are reaching out for some extra special help in preparation for the battle against their one-time arch-rivals - the Pittsburgh Steelers.


Here in Stillers Nation, we know better: the Force is With Us (well, at least it has been for for 2 of the first 6 weeks of this season).



STEELERS NOTES

PIT is 27-19-1 in games decided by 3 points or less under head coach BILL COWHER. ... In past 2 games, QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER has completed 32 of 41 passes (78.0 pct.) for 476 yards with 5 touchdowns, & 154.6 passer rating. ... PIT's 5 passing TDs last week vs. Falcons tied club record, set 5 times, most recently 11/3/1996 vs. STL. ... RB WILLIE PARKER has at least 20 carries in 4 of 6 games. ... With career high 171 receiving yards last week vs. ATL, WR HINES WARD registered 15th career 100-yd game, trailing only LOUIS LIPPS (16) & JOHN STALLWORTH (25) in club annals. Also, recorded career-high in TDs (3). Can extend consecutive games-w/-catch streak to 126 games. Became 1st player in club history to record at least 600 receptions. ... Rookie WR SANTONIO HOLMES recorded career highs in receptions (5), yards (91) & kickoff return yardage (88). ... Club stands 3rd in conference averaging 24.0 points & 228.5 pass yds/game. ... LB JOEY PORTER was named AFC Defensive POW (Wk. 1, 9/15/02) for efforts vs. OAK, registering 10 tackles, 3.0 sacks & 2 INTs w/ 114 return yards.

RAIDERS NOTES

Rookie QB ANDREW WALTER registered career highs in passing yards (263) and rating (83.1) in victory last week vs. ARI...RB LAMONT JORDAN has 120+ rush yds in 3 of past 4 Oct. home games & has 7 rushing TDs in those 4. In 2 of past 3 at home, Jordan has rushed for at least 128 yds. ... Last week vs. Arizona, RB JUSTIN FARGAS recorded career highs in rushing attempts (23) & yards (66). ... Ground game currently stands 2nd in AFC, averaging 4.4 yds/att. ... In his only previous mtg vs. PIT (12/2/02), WR RANDY MOSS caught 8 passes for 144 yards & 1 TD. ... Defense stands 1st in NFL allowing 140.5 passing yds per game & 4th in AFC allowing 273.0 yds per game. OAK owns AFC’s No. 4 defense inside 20, allowing 10 TDs in 25 trips (40.0 pct.). ... DE DERRICK BURGESS has at least 1.0 sack in 3 of past 4 games & leads club w/ 5.0. DT TERDELL SANDS notched 1st career INT last wk. Defense limited ARI to 1 of 11 (9.0 pct) on 3rd down conversion atts in Wk 7 win. ... P SHANE LECHLER ranks No. 2 in NFL w/ 49.9-yard average.


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