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Tuesday July 22 2014
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Steelers October Game Breakdown

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After a Week 4 bye, the Steelers look to regroup and pick up their first win of the season. Pittsburgh plays just three times in October, opening the month on the road in New York before returning home to host AFC North rival Baltimore.

Sunday, October 13th
New York Jets, MetLife Stadium
1:00 PM, CBS
NOTES: The Jets come in as a surprisingly tough opponent. Many expected the offense to fall apart after the injury to QB Mark Sanchez, yet rookie QB Geno Smith has exceeded expectations. His performances have been up (a game-winning drive against the Buccaneers in Week 1) and down (3 interceptions and a 42.7 completion percentage against the Patriots in Week 2). With a typically stout Rex Ryan defense to back Smith up, the Jets have a knack for hanging around and giving Smith the chance to win the game.

MATCH-UP: Pittsburgh’s running game versus the Jets’ run defense. New York has stifled some of the best running backs in the game, including Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller and Stevan Ridley. The Steelers struggled running the ball in September. If the Steelers are bottled up on the ground, then QB Ben Roethlisberger will have a long day running away from the Jets’ pass rush.NFL

SECRET WEAPON: RB Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers’ running backs have been lackluster and injury prone. Bell, who had the Week 5 bye to fully recover from injury, will be given ample opportunity to take over the rushing attack. If the second round pick can capitalize on his potential, then Pittsburgh’s offense will have a reliable rushing weapon to ease the pressure on Roethlisberger.

Sunday, October 20th
Baltimore Ravens, Heinz Field
4:25 PM, CBS
NOTES: After experiencing total demolition at the hands of QB Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, the Ravens’ defense returned to their traditional levels of performance in wins over the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans. The two teams combined to score 15 total points in Weeks 2 and 3. Baltimore always amps up the effort in the carnage that is the Steelers-Ravens rivalry, and the Ravens will be looking to bury the Steelers early on in the AFC North division race.

MATCH-UP: The Steelers’ offense versus the Ravens’ defense. To be fair, every aspect of this game is an intriguing match-up. The intensity, and quite possibly the hatred, that flows in this rivalry game adds a little heat to even the most mundane plays. That being said, Pittsburgh’s entire offenseNFL must step up their game. Baltimore’s defense will be out for blood, and a poor display from the offense will be punished twice as hard.

SECRET WEAPON: WR Marlon Brown. The undrafted rookie free agent has a knack for finding the ball in the end zone. With WR Torrey Smith occupying the attention of the Steelers secondary, and the resurgent TE Dallas Clark slashing through the middle, watch out for Brown sneaking past the coverage and slipping in for a touchdown catch.

Sunday, October 27th
Oakland Raiders, O.co Coliseum
4:05 PM, CBS
NOTES: QB Terrelle Pryor won the starting job over the incoming QB Matt Flynn, and Oakland has gleefully ridden the roller coaster ever since. Pryor can light up a defense with his legs or his arm, and the potential for a huge gain on every play lends each Raiders game added excitement. With the Raiders in full-on rebuilding mode, the Pryor-coaster has become the main (and really the only) game day attraction.

MATCH-UP: Pryor versus defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. The Hall-of-Famer loves to torment inexperienced quarterbacks, and Pryor’s first season as a starter must have LeBeau salivating. Pryor is very mobile, supplying yards on the ground when in trouble in the pocket. If the SteelNFLers defense can keep Pryor in the pocket, then LeBeau’s defensive schemes will force Pryor to air the ball out and throw into confusing coverages. Allowing Pryor to break down the defense with his legs will foil LeBeau’s carefully constructed plans.

SECRET WEAPON: WR Rod Streater. The Raiders’ roster is thin on talent following years of poor drafts and the purging of large veteran contracts. The roster tear-down opened up positions for previously overlooked talent. Streater has taken the opportunity and run with it. Using his height and lanky frame as a big target, Streater provides Pryor a large safety blanket in the passing game. Look for Pryor to throw at the tall receiver early and often.

I was in a minor league press box in Charlotte, NC, last month, taking in one of Gregory Polanco’s final triple-A games. A colleague, upon learning I was from Pittsburgh, approached me with a question.
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