Two weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers still hadn’t picked up their first win of the 2013 season. Entering Week Eight, it appears they are working themselves back into contention.
Following their bye week, the Steelers have won two in a row, improving their record to 2-4. On Sunday, they are expected to win their third consecutive contest when they visit the Oakland Raiders.
The point spread has the Steelers as 2.5-point favorites on the road. After the rough start, the Pittsburgh defense has kept their season alive, allowing 22 total points during their winning streak.
"We believed from the start," linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. "Even when we were 0-4, we still believed we had the opportunity to turn this thing around.
Woodley leads the team with five sacks. He anchors a defense that is sixth in the league, allowing 306.8 yards per game.
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While the defensive effort has been there all year, it’s the team’s offensive struggles that have made them a losing team. Only the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars have rushed for fewer total yards on the season, and Ben Roethlisberger has struggled to make big plays behind a banged up offensive line.
Even in their wins, the Steelers offense hasn’t done much. They scored 19 points in each victory, totaling two touchdowns. Pittsburgh has gotten into the end zone more than once in just two of their six games. Roethlisberger and company have not been able to convert red zone opportunities, scoring touchdowns 37.5 percent of the time they’ve been inside the 20-yard-line.
"That's frustrating as a quarterback and as an offense," Roethlisberger said. "Because, when we get down there, we know what we want to do and what our goal is. We have to find a way to get it in the end zone."
The Steelers will look to slow down Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders offense, which has scored touchdowns in 50 percent of its red zone trips. Following their worst loss of the season, Oakland has a bye in Week Seven, giving them 14 days to prepare for Pittsburgh.
Pryor has been a pleasant surprise in his first year as the starter, leading the team in rushing and registering a respectable 84.8 passer rating. The quarterback was taken by Oakland in the 2011 Supplemental Draft, but he almost went to the Steelers.
“Mike (Tomlin) said, ‘Hey, I'll draft you if you want to play here,' ” said Pryor, who’s from Jeannette, Pennsylvania. “But he gave me a story about when he was down in Tampa Bay about a quarterback (Shaun King) that was there, and he ended up being in the same hometown. It was just hard for him; he ended up cutting out because of all the distractions.”
The Raiders enter the game at 2-4, as well. Both of their wins have come at home.
Las Vegas Betting Odds: Pittsburgh favored by 2.5 points
Over-Under: 40 points
Where To Watch Online: NFL Sunday Ticket Max
Kickoff Time: 4:05 PM Eastern Time
TV Channel: CBS
Prediction: Oakland 20, Pittsburgh 17