Steelers can't find formula to stop Raiders tight ends in 24-21 loss
The Oakland Raiders exploited a weakness on the Pittsburgh Steelers defense Sunday afternoon by continually getting the ball into the hands of their tight ends.
The strategy came one week after the Los Angeles Chargers took advantage of a mismatch by getting wide receiver Keenan Allen continually open against Steelers linebackers. In that loss, the Steelers didn’t have safety Morgan Burnett available for sub-package situations, leaving linebackers to cover Allen, who had 14 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown.
Burnett returned Sunday, but again it was the linebackers who were continually challenged by Raiders tight end Jared Cook, who had seven receptions for 116 yards.
“(Cook) is their leading receiver. We knew that going into the game and whoever was on top of 87 was in the hot seat,” safety Sean Davis said. “We didn’t make enough plays.”
That was evident on the opening drive of the game when Cook got behind linebacker L.J. Fort for a 30-yard gain and linebacker Jon Bostic for a 19-yard catch.
Not to be outdone, backup tight ends Lee Smith and Derek Carrier had short touchdown receptions in the fourth quarter, with Carrier’s 6-yard TD catch on fourth down giving the Raiders a 24-21 lead with 21 seconds remaining. “They had three different tight ends and all had different personalities,” slot cornerback Mike Hilton said. “Eighty-seven is a downfield, athletic guy, 86 (Smith) is a mix and 85 (Carrier) is a blocking guy. They found a way to get them all involved.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at email@example.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.