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Saturday, October 26, 2013
Three keys for Steelers against Raiders

By Scott Brown

The Pittsburgh Steelers win at Oakland if they...

Stay patient with the run: The Steelers have stayed committed to running the ball the last two games, averaging 27.5 carries in victories over the Jets and Ravens compared with an average of 18.3 carries in their first four games. Establishing the run against the Raiders won’t be easy. The Raiders are tied for ninth in the NFL in rushing defense, and they have not allowed a run of 20 or more yards this season. Crowd noise at the Coliseum will make it difficult for pre-snap communication among the Steelers' linemen, who collectively played their best game of the season in a 19-16 win over the Ravens. “We just have to keep being efficient, win on first down, which will keep us out of third-and-long situations,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “When you play like that and protect the football, you generally will have a chance to score more points and be successful.”

Defend the read-option: The Steelers produced a blueprint for containing Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running back Darren McFadden last season when they beat the Redskins 27-12 at Heinz Field. Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III managed just 8 yards on six carries while running back Alfred Morris was held to 59 carries on 13 carries. It helped that the Steelers took an early 10-point lead and forced the Redskins to play from behind. The Steelers’ defensive ends and outside linebackers in particular have to stay disciplined and in sync when Pryor runs the read-option, especially since McFadden burned them with a 64-yard touchdown run last season. “They have a tailback that’s hurt us,” defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. “And they’ve got a quarterback that can hurt you if you don’t play them both right. You have to have them ruled out and everybody on the same page. I think we’ll play them hard.”

Shed their baggage after a long flight: The Steelers travel to the other side of the country a week after they staged one of their typical slugfests with the Ravens. If those two factors don’t auger well for a fast start, neither does this: opponents have outscored the Steelers 40-19 in the first quarter this season. The Steelers haven’t won in Oakland since 1995 and haven’t won in California since 2005. Getting out of the gate quickly on Sunday would go a long way toward the Steelers snapping a two-game road losing streak against the Raiders.