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Week 13: Steelers Key Matchup

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By The The Tribune-Review
Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009

Steelers WR Hines Ward vs. Oakland CB Nnamdi Asomugha


Ward is in his 12th season, but he isn't showing any signs of slowing down. Ward is sixth in the NFL in receptions with 66 and seventh with 845 yards receiving, and he has scored five times. Ward is on pace for his sixth 1,000-yard season and the second most catches (96) of his career and second most yards (1,230). Ward has been targeted 94 times this year by Steelers' quarterbacks, second on the team and only two behind Santonio Holmes. Ward is the Steelers' all-time leader in receiving yards (10,625), receptions (866) and receiving touchdowns (77). Ward has 300 catches more than the closest receiver in team history and has made the majority of the guys watching him this year look silly.


The Raiders have been so awful for so long that a talent like Asomugha can easily get lost in the shuffle, and he has. Asomugha has been one of the few bright spots during one of the roughest stretches in Raiders team history. Asomugha has some pretty mediocre stats this year, and that can be traced back to the opposing quarterback staying clear of him ... aka the Deion Sanders strategy. If they don't throw his way, he can't hurt them. Asomugha has just one interception and only three since he has picked eight during the 2006 season. He has been thrown at only 58 times over the past two years. He has only 24 tackles and three pass defenses this year in 11 games.


Asomugha might win the battle, but Ward will win the war. If Asomugha takes away Ward (like he probably will), that will open things up for the rest of the Steelers' receivers, including Santonio Holmes and Mike Wallace. The Steelers like to get the ball deep to those two, and that could very easily happen today, too. According to STATS LLC, the Raiders have allowed an NFL-worst 54 plays that have gone for at least 20 yards, with 15 coming on the ground and 39 through the air. Nine of the Steelers' 13 pass plays this year of 25 yards or more have gone to either Wallace or Holmes. Ward caught eight passes for 81 yards the last time he played Oakland, but the Steelers lost.

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