Oakland Raiders: Richard Seymour

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- As the purportedly rested and rejuvenated Oakland Raiders come out of their bye weekend and prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one fact hovers over Oakland.

The Raiders have lost their last 10 first games after a bye -- by a combined score of 271-139.

“I think we’re all aware of that, but like I told the players today, the past has no relevance to the future,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Monday. “Any of the outcomes that have happened after a bye in the past won’t dictate how we go out and play against Pittsburgh. What’s going to dictate how we go out and play against Pittsburgh is how well we prepare during the week, and then how well … we go out and execute that plan on Sunday.”

Fair enough, but what’s that old saying about those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it?

Sure enough, a look back at the Raiders’ decade of post-bye blues reveals some interesting moments:

Nov. 2, 2003, Raiders at Detroit: Marques Tuiasosopo, Oakland’s second-round pick in 2001, makes his first NFL start and has a QB rating of 34.3 in completing six of 11 passes for 65 yards and an interception in a 23-13 loss to the Lions. “Tui” would start only one more game in his career, at the New York Jets in 2005.

Oct. 16, 2005, Raiders vs. San Diego: Randy Moss, in his first season in Oakland, went up for a Kerry Collins pass late in the first half and was hit hard by strong safety Terrence Kiel in a 27-14 loss to the Chargers. The groin injury would linger and it was the first time Moss was held without a catch in his career.

Oct. 12, 2008, Raiders at New Orleans: It was an inauspicious debut for Tom Cable as Oakland’s interim coach in the wake of the memorable overhead projector presser announcing Lane Kiffin’s firing. An ashen-faced Cable had no answers as the Saints ran all over the Raiders in a 34-3 blowout.

Nov. 21, 2010, Raiders at Pittsburgh: Richard Seymour had seen enough, so the Raiders defensive tackle went and got himself kicked out of the Raiders’ eventual 35-3 blowout loss to the Steelers. Seymour’s open-hand palm strike to the facemask of Ben Roethlisberger was as swift as it was pretty as Roethlisberger went down like a sack of Primanti Brothers sandwiches.

Oct. 14, 2012, Raiders at Atlanta: Playing their most complete game under rookie coach Dennis Allen, the Raiders were tied at 13-13 and driving for a potential winning field goal when Carson Palmer threw a 79-yard pick-six to Asante Samuel. Palmer responded by driving Oakland 80 yards for a game-tying touchdown. Alas, Atlanta kicked a 55-yard field goal with one second to play for the win.

So what should be expected out of Sunday’s game at the O.co Coliseum? The Raiders have won the last two meetings in Oakland -- 34-31 last season and 20-13 in 2006 -- and the last time the Steelers won in the East Bay was in 1995.

The Raiders’ main goal in their weekend break was getting healthy, while getting revived.

“I think we had a good plan in the bye,” Allen said. “I think we got some guys freshened up a little bit. Now the key is, we’ve got to focus in on the preparation. We’ve got to do the things that are necessary to go out and play well on Sunday.”
ALAMEDA, Calif. – How different will the Oakland Raiders' defense look Sunday?

Consider: Besides there being nine new starters, Lamarr Houston, who is making the switch from left defensive end to the right side, will be the only Raiders defensive player who had a sack last season with Oakland.

Yes, the Raiders had 25 sacks as a team last year, which ranked 31st in the NFL, and Houston tied for the team lead with four. Linebacker Miles Burris, who is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, added 1.5 sacks. And that’s it.

It’s no surprise, then, that much is expected this season of Houston, who was voted a team captain along with fullback Marcel Reece and long-snapper Jon Condo.

“Lamarr was a guy that, going into this season, we kind of pegged as a guy that we wanted to be a leader for this team,” said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. “He began to take a little bit of that role at the end of last year, and I think he’s continued to improve in that regard as we’ve gone through the offseason and training camp.

“I think he’ll continue to develop as a leader for this football team as we go forward.”

Selected in the second round of the 2010 draft, Houston immediately made a mark with numerous training camp scraps. But he seemed soft-spoken off the field.

“When I was younger, I had (Richard) Seymour and Tommy (Kelly) here, so I thought I was going to be ‘little brother’ forever,” Houston said with a roaring laugh. “Nah, but as the years have gone by, I could see myself being a captain now. A lot of my teammates respect me and it means a lot to me -- and I’m going to do the best I can to fulfill this role for this team.”

So what, exactly, does being tabbed a captain mean to Houston?

“It means it’s a lot of responsibility, a lot of respect,” he said. “It’s a big role to play. It means you’re a leader. You basically represent the team when you’re a captain, so it’s a great honor. But it’s more about the team.”

And still, there are questions about Houston’s skill set, and how it translates to the more pass-rush-emphasized right side.

At 6-feet-3, 300 pounds, Houston is not your stereotypical edge rusher, nor is he a bull-rusher.

“To be honest, I think my skill set fits perfect,” he said. “Pass-rushing is about technique; it’s not about who’s the fastest or who’s the strongest. I’ve been working on that a lot this offseason and it’s been showing up in this preseason a little bit and in training camp, so I’m just going to try and build on that and do whatever I can to get better at playing on that right end.”