Why The Pittsburgh Steelers Playoff Hopes Will Be Over After This Weekend


The Pittsburgh Steelers face a tough challenge in Week 9 as they face the Raiders. Not only because Oakland is coming in as one of the hottest teams in the NFL but because Pittsburgh can’t see to overcome their own demons. The constant injuries and really inconsistent play on offense has really taken a toll on the Steelers’ playoff chances. This week they face a must win against Oakland if they plan on playing in December.

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A loss to the Raiders and things start looking almost impossible for the Steelers. At 4-5 they would have to win five out of their last seven games. Four of those seven games are on the road including visits to the Cincinnati and Seattle and the Steelers will also be hosting the division leading Broncos and Colts. So this game at home is very important and will most likely decide if they are heading to the playoffs or not.

A loss here for Pittsburgh would give the Raiders the crucial tie breaker over them and the Jets. It would also put the Steelers two games behind the Raiders and realistically make it three games behind because they would have to finish with a better record to get ahead of them in the playoff standings. The Steelers have a bad 1-4 conference record against the AFC and a loss here would make it worse. That means a team like the Bills or Dolphins would be ranked ahead of them because of that conference record if they ended up tied at the end of the year.

Nov 1, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) scrambles away from pressure against the Cincinnati Bengals during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Bengals won 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers have to find a way to get things going against Oakland this weekend and it starts with Ben Roethlisberger. The Raiders have a very good front seven on defense that hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher and only three rushing touchdowns all year. Trying to run the ball on them will be hard, but Big Ben must be smart on passing plays. Roethlisberger is a tough man to bring down and he’s good at extending plays with his size and feet but that can’t be a big part of what they do on Sunday.

The key to beating the Raiders is getting the ball out of Roethlisberger’s hands quickly. The Bengals did this best in week 1 and had very good success. The problem is the Raiders are a different team since that week. While passing stats show they are one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL the reality is quarterbacks are not having much success against this defense. Quarterbacks are averaging a passer rating against the Raiders that is just above Jay Cutler‘s and just below Alex Smith‘s.

The key to beating the Raiders is getting the ball out of Roethlisberger’s hands quickly.

The offensive line for the Steelers will have to do their best to control the Raiders defensive line. While you’re likely to hear about Khalil Mack a lot, the real strength of the Raiders defensive front is in the middle. Free agent acquisition Dan Williams and second year player Justin Ellis are almost immovable objects that are able to plug up holes and create pressure in the middle. The Jets found this out last week as they played with their back up center and they failed to get one of the most aggressive runners in the NFL over 20 yards on 15 carries.

These are two teams who want to punish the other. The good news for the Steelers is that the Raiders haven’t been great when playing on the east coast. They lost a game they should have won this year against the Bears and it was because of mental errors. The Steelers defense is good enough to create turnovers because of the way they blitz and disguise coverage. This will be a big test for Derek Carr on Sunday.

Oct 25, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) gestures during the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Carr has played well over the last few weeks against the Chargers and Steelers. His 15 touchdown passes compared to only three interceptions is one of the better ratios in the league. However, Dalton came in with the second best TD-INT ratio and he threw two interceptions against Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Carr played a Chargers team without Eric Weddle and a Jets team that allowed too many yards after the catch. That’s what the Raiders do best as their receivers are great after they catch the ball. The Steelers need to make sure they swarm the ball and secure their tackles.

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It’s gut check time for the Steelers this week and based on how the season has been going for them, I believe this is the game that puts an end to their playoff hopes. I don’t think this defense will be able to stop the diverse offense the Raiders have.

There isn’t one player that has significantly more production than the other. Steelers fall to the Raiders, 27-17, at home.