F. Dale Lolley's Sports Column
Steelers’ defense needs to show up against Raiders
The Steelers have had their issues playing at the Black Hole, also known as O.co. Coliseum in Oakland.
In his last three games against the Raiders, Ben Roethlisberger has thrown nine touchdown passes and one interception. Clearly, he has not been the issue in the Steelers going 1-2 in those games.
What has been the issue is the defense.
Take, for example, last season, when the Steelers lost 34-31 in Oakland.
The Steelers held a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter that slipped away, in part because of an Antonio Brown fumble.
Quarterback Carson Palmer brought the Raiders back, leading them to 13 unanswered points. Darren McFadden also hurt the Steelers early in that game, opening up the passing game for Palmer.
This year, however, it’s Terrelle Pryor starting at quarterback for the Raiders. This will be just the ninth career game for Pryor, essentially making the third-year player a rookie.
And we all know what the Steelers’ record is against rookie quarterbacks with Dick LeBeau as their defensive coordinator.
Pryor is a threat. He leads AFC quarterbacks in rushing and has been decent as a passer, completing well over 60 percent of his throws. But he’s also been intercepted five times in only 136 passes and has three fumbles, so there’s good and bad.
And he’ll be playing behind a makeshift offensive line with three starters banged up.
Pittsburgh’s defense, meanwhile, has allowed only one touchdown in its past nine quarters.
For the Steelers, this is a classic trap game, sandwiched between a home game against Baltimore and a game at New England.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin obviously recognized that and gave the team a history lesson in the Pittsburgh-Oakland rivalry.
The Steelers are 2 1/2 point favorites and must win before their trip to New England next week. After that game, the schedule eases up considerably.
Take the Steelers, 23-20
Sam Bradford is done for the year for the Rams with a torn ACL. Not a good time to be breaking in a new QB.
Take Seattle, 27-6
Cowboys are coming off big win over the Eagles, while Lions lost a heartbreaker at home.
Take Detroit, 31-27
Packers lose another of Aaron Rodgers’ targets in tight end Jermichael Finley. Won’t matter against hapless Vikings.
Take Green Bay, 34-10
Jets coming off a big win over Patriots. I smell a letdown.
Take Cincinnati, 24-13
Arizona QB Palmer looks bad when pressured. Atlanta can’t rush the passer.
Take Arizona, 24-20
This could get ugly early.
Take San Francisco, 31-10
Cleveland is going with Jason Campbell at QB, the Browns’ 20th starting quarterback since 1999. The Chiefs will be missing Dwayne Bowe.
Take Cleveland to cover in a 13-10 loss
Washington head coach Mike Shanahan might have a trick or two up his sleeve for his return to Denver. Peyton Manning will bounce back from last week’s loss.
Take Denver, 45-31
Bills got a big win last week at Miami, but the Saints are just too tough at home.
Take New Orleans, 31-17
Dolphins have lost three in a row after a 3-0 start. Make it four.
Take New England, 27-17
Michael Vick is back for the Eagles, but Philly shouldn’t be favored by six over anyone other than Jacksonville or Tampa Bay.
Take the Giants to cover in a 27-23 loss
Last Week: 5-9 ATS; 9-5 Straight up
Overall: 37-59-4 ATS; 62-39 Straight up
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at email@example.com.