Steelers and Raiders meet amid bittersweet goodbye to Harris

LAS VEGAS (6-8) at PITTSBURGH (6-8)

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EST, NFL Network

FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK NFL LINE: Steelers by 2 1/2.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Raiders 7-7; Pittsburgh 7-6-1

SERIES RECORD: Raiders lead 14-10

LAST MEETING: Raiders beat the Steelers 26-17 on Sept. 19, 2021.

LAST WEEK: Raiders beat Patriots 30-24; Steelers beat Panthers 24-16

RAIDERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (11), RUSH (13), PASS (13), SCORING (10).

RAIDERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (24), RUSH (15), PASS (26), SCORING (23).

STEELERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (26), RUSH (18), PASS (24), SCORING (27).

STEELERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (19), RUSH (7), PASS (24), SCORING (13).

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Raiders minus-3, Steelers even.

RAIDERS PLAYER TO WATCH: Center Andre James. Given the injury situation at both guard positions, the onus is on James even more to create push up the middle for RB Josh Jacobs or help provide better protection for QB Derek Carr. The Patriots went after Carr in the second half Sunday, sacking him three times and helping shut down Las Vegas’ offense until its final drive to tie the game.

STEELERS PLAYER TO WATCH: LB Alex Highsmith. The third-year edge rusher has come into his own this season, boosting his sack total to a career-best 11 after getting one last week in a victory over Carolina. The Steelers are 5-2 this season when Highsmith has at least one sack and his development has made opponents pay if they focus all of their attention on star LB T.J. Watt.

KEY MATCHUP: Steelers defensive front vs. Raiders RB Josh Jacobs. Pittsburgh’s erratic run defense made an emphatic response last week against Carolina after getting pushed around in a loss to Baltimore. The Steelers held the Panthers to just 21 yards rushing. With frigid temperatures and gusty winds expected, both teams are likely to try and keep the ball on the ground. If Jacobs runs wild, the Steelers could be in trouble.

KEY INJURIES: Raiders: CB Rock Ya-Sin (knee) did not practice Wednesday and hasn’t played the past two games. G Alex Bars (knee), DT Andrew Billings (fibula) and G Dylan Parham (knee) have missed time the past two weeks, but coach Josh McDaniels said they could return this week. They were limited in practice Wednesday, as were T Jackson Barton (back), LB Darien Butler (quadricep), S Duron Harmon (shoulder, neck and RB Zamir White (ankle). … Steelers QB Kenny Pickett will return to the lineup after sitting out last week’s win over Carolina while in the concussion protocol. … WR Diontae Johnson (toe), S Terrell Edmunds (hamstring) and LB Myles Jack (groin) are questionable. Jack did not play last week against Carolina.

SERIES NOTES: The Raiders have won the past two meetings, four of the past five and six of eight. … Pittsburgh’s most recent victory was in 2015 at home, a 38-35 win. … Until last season’s nine-point victory by the Raiders, four games in a row were each decided by three points. … The teams have yet to meet in Las Vegas.

STATS AND STUFF: The game will be played just three days after the death of Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris, who died on Wednesday at age 72. The schedule makers sent Las Vegas to Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of Harris’ “Immaculate Reception” against the Raiders in the 1972 playoffs. Several players from both teams who were on the field that day will be in attendance as Pittsburgh retires Harris’ No. 32. … The game is essentially a playoff eliminator, with the loser seeing its already slim postseason chances vanish while the winner can keep hope alive for at least another week. … With temperatures expected to be near zero, it could mark the coldest home game in Steelers history. The current mark was set on Dec. 17, 1989, against New England at Three Rivers Stadium where the thermometer read 5 degrees at kickoff. … Raiders TE Darren Waller has 3,304 receiving yards for Las Vegas, moving him past Dave Casper (3,294) into second place for Raiders tight ends. Todd Christensen is the record holder with 5,872 yards. … RB Josh Jacobs leads the NFL with 106.8 yards rushing a game. … Jacobs needs 69 scrimmage yards to move into second place in franchise history for a season. Marcus Allen in 1985 set the record with 2,314 yards. … Raiders running backs have had 53 rushes go for no gain or a loss, the league’s fewest. … Las Vegas QB Derek Carr surpassed 35,000 passing yards Sunday, one of four quarterbacks to reach that figure in his first nine seasons. … Raiders WR Davante Adams is one touchdown reception away from becoming the eighth player with at least three seasons of 13-plus TD catches. … Las Vegas DE Maxx Crosby had 77 tackles, just one behind the Raiders record for a defensive lineman in a season behind Khalil Mack in 2017. … Las Vegas has gained at least 300 yards 13 times, tied for second most. … Raiders P AJ Cole has placed 8% percent of his punts inside the 5-yard line, tops in the NFL. … The Steelers are 4-4 all time on Christmas Eve, including a 1-1 mark at home. … Pittsburgh needs to win out to avoid the first losing season of head coach Mike Tomlin’s 16-year tenure. … Pittsburgh is 25-8 at home in primetime under Tomlin. …The Steelers defense held Carolina without a rushing first down last week, the first time they’ve done that to an opponent since 2015. … Pittsburgh ran the ball 46 times against the Panthers, the franchise’s single-game high since running it 52 times on Dec. 7, 2006. … The Steelers have gone over 100 yards rushing in six of their past seven games. They are 4-3 in that span. … Pickett has gone 129 pass attempts without an interception, the fifth-longest active streak in the NFL. Pickett threw eight picks in his first five games before the streak began. … Pittsburgh LB T.J. Watt appears to be rounding into form late in an injury-marred season. Watt has 2 1/2 sacks over his past two games. The 2021 AP Defensive Player of the Year, who missed seven weeks with a torn left pectoral, had just 1 1/2 in his first five games combined.

FANTASY TIP: Considering the weather uncertainty, it might be wise to avoid starting anyone playing on what will be a blustery Christmas Eve. Jacobs or Steelers RB Najee Harris figure to be your best bets — particularly in a PPR league — because they will likely be busy as both teams try to keep the ball out of the swirling and bitterly cold winds inside Acrisure Stadium.

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