Raiders New Defensive Scheme Will Be Tested By Steelers’ Quick-Hitting Offense

The irresistible force meeting the immovable object” was a key refrain in 1980’s professional wrestling. While a Week 2 NFL matchup hardly has the gravity of Wrestlemania 3, the mantra does hold in one regard: the Raiders defensive strength vs. the Steelers offensive preference.

That Raiders defensive strength is its relentless pass rush and it will be facing a Steelers offense that prefers to throw quickly, preventing teams from hitting their quarterback. They did it last season, when Ben Roethlisberger was the quickest-to-throw starter in the NFL and they did it again in Week 1 of this season.

Let’s dig into this matchup and see if either team has an advantage, starting with Roethlisberger’s performance in Week 1:

Category Stat NFL Rank
Completion Percentage 56.3 33rd
Yards Per Attempt 5.9 28th
Average Depth of Target 6.2 28th
Turnover-Worthy Plays 2 3rd most
Big-Time Throws
0 Tied for last
Time to Throw2.252nd
PFF Passing Grade 38.2 Last

There is nothing good in that chart, except for the time to throw. Only Justin Fields was quicker to throw the football, but he only threw two passes. Throwing quick may very well be the correct antidote to a Raider defense that had the NFL’s highest pressure rate.

This Steelers strategy worked well against a Bills team that was 7th in the NFL in PFF’s pressure rate last season and spent a first-round pick on a pass rusher this offseason. The Steelers were able to hold that formidable Bills unit in check. Contrast that success to the Raiders success against the Ravens:

CategorySteelers OffenseRaiders Defense
QB Hurries3 allowed20 recorded
QB Hits2 allowed5 recorded
QB Stats1 allowed3 recorded

There’s no question the Raiders pass rush was dominant last week. But that dominance came against the quarterback who held the ball the second longest. In fact, Lamar Jackson held the ball almost a full second longer than Ben Roethlisberger:

CategoryBen RoethlisbergerLamar Jackson
Time To Throw2.25 seconds3.14 seconds

Will Maxx Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue and company be able to repeat their performance against the NFL’s quickest-to-throw starting quarterback? It’s a fascinating question and one that is impossible to predict.

One thing is for certain, however: If the Raiders pass rush emerges victorious, it may be time to consider the Raiders defense the real deal and Maxx Crosby as a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

Twitter: @TravisGilkeson