The rivalry between the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers isn’t what it was in the 1970’s, but Sunday’s matchup between the two teams is one of the most important they’ve had in a few years. Both teams are in the playoff race, and the Week-9 game at Heinz Field could play a major role in determining an AFC wild-card spot.
Oakland is coming off their second straight win, improving to 4-3 on the season. Pittsburgh’s Week 8 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals essentially knocked them out of the AFC North race, and their 4-4 record has them at seventh in the conference standings.
Even though the Raiders have the better record, the Steelers are favored by 4.5 points, according to vegasinsider.com. The over/under is 48 points.
It won’t be the first time all season that Pittsburgh will be without their star running back. Le’Veon Bell missed the first two games of the season because of a suspension, and now he’s done for the year with a torn MCL. When Bell was on the field this season, he was as good as any running back in football, ranking second with 92.7 rushing yards per game. He added 24 receptions for 136 yards in six games.
When DeAngelo Williams has filled in for Bell, he’s actually performed like a top running back. He ran for 177 yards in the season opener and scored three touchdowns in Week 2. When Bell went down with his injury against the Bengals, Williams totaled 110 yards on 13 touches.
Tight end Matt Spaeth has missed practice this week, but he’s expected to play. Safety Will Allen and defensive end Stephon Tuitt both missed Pittsburgh’s last two games, but they were full participants in Thursday’s practice.
Oakland has been very fortunate since suffering a few injuries at the start of the season. Almost all of their injuries have been on defense. Defensive end Kahlil Mack didn’t practice on Wednesday because of a hamstring injury, but he was back on Thursday and expects to play. Mack has four sacks and 27 tackles on the season, having played in every game.
The Raiders’ offense has been the team’s strength, but their defense has improved over the last few games. Charles Woodson has been banged up for nearly the entire season, but he’s played about as well as any defensive back, totaling five interceptions and 33 tackles. Oakland has the NFL’s second-best rushing defense, allowing just 82.9 yards per game on the ground.
Derek Carr was injured in Week 1, but he hasn’t missed a game this year. He could be on his way to the Pro Bowl, having thrown 15 touchdowns and three interceptions entering Week 9.
The game will start at 1 p.m. ET on CBS, and fans who purchase NFLSUNDAYTICKET.TV can watch the game with a live stream online. Oakland won in Cleveland earlier this season, winning in the Eastern Time Zone for the first time in 17 games.