Raiders Preview: Merry Christmas (Eve) For Raiders Fans Against The Steelers?
Josh Jacobs, Raiders
Oct 2, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) celebrates his touchdown scored against the Denver Broncos during the second half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Christmas Eve at 5 p.m., and the Las Vegas Raiders are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers — what could be better? Two historic franchises, prime time spot, great uniforms — Merry Christmas to all of us with this one.

Of course, it is worth pointing out that the talent on the field could be better, but let’s not get bogged down with negativity this holiday season. The Raiders are still technically alive in the playoff hunt (I’ll be honest: I chuckle every time someone shows the “playoff picture” and includes the Raiders at the bottom, but I suppose it could be worse) — as are the Steelers, both of whom are 6-8 overall.

Pittsburgh is coming off of a 24-16 victory over the Panthers last Sunday in which they held Carolina to just 209 total yards — and 21 of them on the ground. The Raiders, of course, are probably still coming off of the high that was their win over the Patriots, but on a short week, we’ll find out how quickly they were able to move forward…

Key Stats

Kenny Pickett, Steelers
Dec 11, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) scrambles with the ball against the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh: 27th in points per game (17.9), 26th in yards per game (317.9)

Good news for the Raiders defense: as bad as Mac Jones was last Sunday, this week’s opponent might actually be worse. Mitch Trubisky was under center last Sunday, and while he played alright (17/21 for 179 yards), I can’t imagine Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham staying up at night worrying about him.

That said, even against the Patriots, the Raiders defense looked vulnerable. If not for a handful of missed passes from Jones, the Patriots (who are just ahead of Pittsburgh in yards per game) may have scored quite a bit more than the 24 they ended up with.

Derek Carr, Raiders
Dec 4, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) reacts against the Los Angeles Chargers in the second half at Allegiant Stadium. The Raiders defeated the Chargers 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas: 19th in 3rd down conversion rate (38.24%)

Last Sunday, the Raiders converted just five of their 14 third down attempts, a feat that nearly cost them the game as they gained just two first downs on their first six drives of the second half. The Steelers are middle-of-the-pack in this category (14th), so I’ll be curious to see if the Raiders can maintain an offensive rhythm for a full 60 minutes this week.

Key Players

Najee Harris, Steelers
Dec 18, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh: Najee Harris

A week after allowing Rhamondre Stevenson to run for 172 yards on just 19 carries, the Raiders face a team that may be more committed to the run than just about anyone. Harris, who has struggled this season following a breakout rookie campaign, got the ball 24 times last week — a season-high — and has 5 touchdowns in his last five games. The flip side? He has yet to post a 100-yard game on the ground this season — will Sunday be his first?

Davante Adams, Raiders
Nov 20, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams (17) following the overtime win against the against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas: Davante Adams

Obviously, a key player for the Raiders, Adams has been held in check the past two weeks – totaling just 99 yards on 16 targets. Typically what happens is that Adams begins the game heavily involved but then wanes in influence as the game goes on — which, not coincidentally, is typically when the Raider collapse begins. For the Raiders offense to keep their foot on the gas, Adams must be involved intentionally by Josh McDaniels and Derek Carr — is Saturday night when we finally see that happen?

Josh McDaniels, Raiders
Aug 26, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels applauds as players take the field to warm up for a preseason game against the New England Patriots at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports


Raiders 27, Steelers 16

Mike Tomlinson is the far better coach, but when it comes to talent on the field the Raiders should be able to win this comfortably. I know it’s a road game, and I know it’s going to be freezing — but with the momentum of Sunday’s crazy win, this one is a must-get for Josh McDaniels and Co. I think the Raiders do what they normally do: get out to a quick lead, but this time they actually pound the rock and bleed the clock out a bit.