The key to this game may very well come down to the team that gives its QB the most time to throw. Looking at the numbers, this is going to be a hard task for both teams.
The Raiders pass protection has progressed with the season. Still, it is far below average. They are 26th in sacks allowed percentage at 8.6. Part of this is their offense calls for deeper drops and longer passes than the quick hitting west coast offense. The kind of offense that New England employed so successfully against the Steelers in Week 10.
The Patriots did an amazing job of keeping Tom Brady upright last week. The fierce Steelers pass rush ended the game with zero sacks. On the season, the Steelers are 12th with a 6.5 sacks percentage and 3rd with a 8.5 adjusted sack rate. The adjusted sack rate accounts for opponent and situation etc.
The Steelers get the majority of their sacks with their linebackers. Most notably, James Harrison with 7 and LaMarr Woodley with 5.5. The Raiders tackles are going to need to be on their game and while Jared Veldheer has been improving he certainly struggled at times with Tamba Hali last game and would’ve struggled more had he not gotten away with a few holds.
Raiders’ Pass Rush vs. Steelers’ O-line
The Steelers’ Pass protection has been as bad as the Raiders. They are currently 28th in sack allowed percentage and tied with the Raiders at 28 with an 8.5 adjusted sack rate. The thing here is that the Steelers’ O-line is even worse than these numbers. Ben Roethlisberger is good at eluding pass rushers and he has to, and will likely have to, do this often.
The Raiders currently lead the league in sack percentage and adjusted sack rate, both at 9.1. They are also doing it with mostly their defensive lineman. While they have incorporated well-timed and executed blitzes, mostly with their safeties, it is the down lineman that are doing the majority of the damage.