Terrelle Pryor claimed earlier this week that he could do things that most other quarterbacks couldn’t do. It didn’t take him long to show that off, turning in the longest run by a quarterback in NFL history on the game’s first offensive play. Pryor’s ability to surprise even his own teammates is something that Raiders fans have enjoyed so far through the first few weeks, but the young team still has some growing to do if it wants to win against elite competition. Let’s take a quick look at the game in question before jumping ahead to next week’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
1. Don’t be surprised to see Ford cut soon.
While the rest of the team enjoyed a successful day, Ford did just about everything in his power to hand the game away. He has always flashed glimpses of wonderful play mixed with inconsistent plays and turnovers, but having three fumbles forced against you in one game is inexcusable. Taiwan Jones was iffy on kick returns as well, muffing a kick early in the game and giving the Raiders bad field position, but the team was lucky that the Steelers only recovered one of Ford’s fumbles. When some of the unhealthy starters return to the team, don’t be surprised if it’s Jacoby Ford who is given the axe. His breakout game against the Chiefs seems awfully long ago, doesn’t it?
2. Pryor (as well as the rest of the offense) must learn to play a full sixty minutes.
If the Raiders could only play thirty-minute football games. The team has been an incredibly strong first-half team, outscoring their last three opponents 65-10 and looking downright dominant at times. The offense is typically quick to explode and then begins to peter out as the game continues, leaving the defense to continue to hold onto leads. While the offensive inconsistencies are expected in such a young and inexperienced team, Pryor and the offense must learn to continue moving the ball in the second half. They managed just one first down in the second half as the Steelers’ offense began to pick up the pace. What was a 21-3 blowout at the half turned into a 21-18 nailbiter on the second drive. The defense picked up the slack this time, but the team cannot be happy with letting a rout turn into a narrow win. The receivers suffered from a number of key drops and didn’t make as many plays as they had in weeks past, but the entire team needs to play better in order to secure future wins.
3. The defense is looking legit.
I’ve had faith in the defense all season, but this game was perhaps their finest outing all year. Le’Veon Bell was held to just 24 rushing yards on 13 carries, boosting the Raiders to the sixth-best run defense in the league. The defense forced two interceptions (Brandian Ross had a game-sealing pick that was called back on a holding call, as well) and caused havoc on a decimated Steelers’ offensive line. Rookie OLB Sio Moore, after a sack and a few pressures against Alex Smith, stepped up huge with two sacks and a number of pressures that forced bad throws from Roethlisberger. The coverage on the receivers was borderline shutdown until Tarver and the Raiders went into more Prevent looks, something that they will hopefully save until the fourth quarter in future games, as it allowed for Pittsburg to claw its way back into the game.
4. Special shoutout to Marquette King!
The Raiders seem to have made the right decision in trusting in King’s booming leg. He may have overkicked his team’s coverage on a punt early in the game, but King has consistently flipped field position and given the defense incredible room to work. He is now leading the league in punt average with 48.9 yards per punt and is tenth in net yards per punt. His technique could still use refinement, as a number of his booming punts bounced into the endzone and gave the Steelers pretty good field position, but he has perhaps been one of the best in the league at the league’s most underappreciated position. Looks like the Raiders chose correctly in letting Lechler walk for the Texans.