Pittsburgh Steelers Week 2 Matchup - Containing Waller Key for Steelers


(Ben Margot/Associated Press)

This Sunday at 1:00 PM, the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Las Vegas Raiders in what will be their first home game of the 2021 season.  Both of these teams head into this matchup with a 1-0 record with each looking to build on their upset victories in Week 1.  The Steelers are coming off of a trip to Buffalo, where their defense was able to the stymy the Bills' offensive attack to snatch a 20-13 win in front of the Bills Mafia.  

I highlighted some of the major takeaways from that game in my article from earlier this week.  On the other side, the Raiders will try to keep their momentum going after defeating the Baltimore Ravens in overtime on Monday Night Football.  Let's take a look at what we can expect heading into this showdown.

RAIDERS TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 1

For much of the Raiders 1st half against the Ravens, it looked like the same old Raiders we have become accustomed to watching.  But similar to the Steelers, it was the Raiders defense that kept them in the game and led them to victory.  The defensive line, headlined by Maxx Crosby, gave Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson fits all night, and contained him from his usual big plays he creates with his feet. It appeared every time they needed a big stop, the Raiders stepped up to contain Jackson and the rest of the Ravens explosive offense. 

The Raiders defensive play not only energized the offense, but also the fans who were in attendance for the first time at the Raiders' new stadium in Las Vegas.  Moving there just last year, the Raiders played their first season in Allegiant Stadium with no crowd due to the pandemic.  So with the stadium finally rocking, the Raiders mounted an impressive comeback that saw them kick a field goal at the end of the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime.  The Raiders then went on to win the game with an overtime touchdown.  

I was certainly surprised watching the game on Monday night.  I feel like I've seen the Raiders lose that type of game many times over the years.  After all, the Raiders have earned the reputation of falling short of expectations and constantly letting their down fanbase for a reason. However, the team showed a ton of resiliency in a game that we've become accustomed to seeing the Raiders lose.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE STEELERS IN THIS MATCHUP

As I mentioned, the biggest takeaway from the Raiders Week 1 game was their staunch defensive play.  The Steelers sport a young offensive line and they are going to have their hands full with the Raider pass rush, especially if they continue to play like they did Monday night.  However, the Raiders will be facing a much different offense this time around.  Ben and Co. will put plenty of pressure on the Raider cornerbacks, something that Jackson and the Ravens are not known for.  

Defensively, the Steelers are coming off a game where they shined in just about every way.  In Week 1, they had three of the top five players with the most quarterback pressures, with Cam Heyward leading the league with 12 quarterback pressures.  Raiders quarterback Derek Carr isn't nearly as mobile as the Bills' Josh Allen, so it will be interesting to see how he copes with having Steelers' passr ushers in his face all game long.  

Another way to shut down Carr will be containing tight end Darren Waller.  Waller had a whopping 19 targets in Monday's game, finishing with 10 catches for 105 yards.  He was clearly Carr's go-to-guy, often forcing the ball to him in double and triple coverage.  If the Steeler defense can limit Waller, they should find themselves in a good position yet again to keep points off the scoreboard.

PREDICTION

The Steelers go into this game as 5.5 point favorites, and frankly I think it is warranted.  The Raiders are coming off an emotional win where they played for the first time in front of their home fans.  It will be a much different atmosphere that will be welcoming them this weekend at Heinz Field, where Pittsburgh fans will be in attendance for the first time since 2019.  

Another thing going against the Raiders is they are playing this week on short rest, having just played on Monday night.  Plus it is always tough for West Coast teams to travel to the East Coast, where they will be playing three hours earlier than normal.  On top of the Steelers having the personnel advantage, it just feels like there are too many factors stacked up against Las Vegas in this matchup.  They certainly stunned the nation last week and anything is possible in football, but I feel comfortable (maybe too much if we're being honest) with the Steelers coming out of Week 2 with a 2-0 record.

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