When the Steelers play the Raiders on Sunday afternoon at Oakland Coliseum, they will be playing a team they aren’t as familiar with, one they haven’t played since 2015 when they won, 38-35, at Heinz Field.
But Raiders Coach Jon Gruden does have a bit of insight into the Steelers, as his role as an analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Football from 2009-17 had him covering numerous Steelers games and studying the team closely.
And his insight is obvious in his current analysis of several Steelers players, including Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.
Below is what Gruden and the Raiders had to say about the Steelers:
Gruden on how Ben Roethlisberger has evolved:
“He doesn’t look any different to me. He doesn’t look any different to me when I was playing against him, when I was coaching last time or when I was in the booth or studying him now. He’s still got a great physical presence in the pocket. He still creates a lot of offense when nothing is there with his scrambling. He’s at his best when they need him the most. They need him a lot right now, so we’re expecting the best from Roethlisberger on Sunday.”
Derek Carr on what he sees from Roethlisberger when he watches him:
“I think Ben is someone that, he’s not fast, but people don’t always talk about him extending plays. The way he can extend plays. He doesn’t do it all the time outside the pocket, even though he can. You see defensive linemen hanging on with two hands and he’s such a big guy. Obviously I’m not 6-5 and whatever he is, 200-and-something (pounds). You see those things and you respect it because that’s the way he’s got to play.
“He’s not going to take off and run for 40 yards. He can but he doesn’t do it that much. At the same time, he lives in the pocket and he can extend.
“The plays that he creates, that aren’t designed, are really cool. They are really fun to watch and that’s why the guy has got two rings. He’s been a really good pro at it.”
Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther on Ben Roethlisberger:
“It’s always fun to compete against him. He’s a heck of a player. I’ve had a lot of battles against him. It’s a fun game to go against him because he plays at such a high level. He can get them in and out of plays and make unscripted plays.
“He’s a big guy and he can move around in the pocket. He’s run a couple times. One time against Carolina, I think he ran for about 40 yards. He’s just elusive and he’s a big guy to bring down.”
Gruden on what he likes about Mike Tomlin’s resume:
“He’s an energetic coach. He’s hired good assistants. They obviously know something about talent over there. They’ve been able to draft well. They know what Pittsburgh Steelers look like and smell like, and they’ve been able to develop them.”
Gruden on the Steelers-Raiders rivalry:
“When I was a kid, I remember watching those games. For the ‘Immaculate Reception’, it seemed like both teams were loaded with Pro Bowlers, future Hall of Famers and it was going to be a knock-down, drag-out, no matter where they played. So it will be cool seeing these two franchises go after each other again.”
Gruden on what the best thing about Antonio Brown is:
“They move him around everywhere. You don’t know where he’s going to be. He can run every route you dream up. I say that about other receivers, but he can run double moves, he can run by you, he can run crossing routes, he’s very good after the catch.
“What’s the greatest thing about this man, I’ve told all of our receivers, if you get a chance to watch him practice, you’ll see what unlocks the greatness in him. He’s the hardest working man, I think, in football. Hardest working player I’ve ever seen practice. I’ve seen Jerry Rice, I’ve seen a lot of good ones, but I put Antonio Brown at the top. If there are any young wideouts out there, I’d go watch him practice. You figure out yourself why he’s such a good player.”
Guenther on Antonio Brown:
“He’s good. They move him around. They will put him in the slot some, put him on the backside in a Z or X and do different things with him. He’s a very good route runner. He’s good at the line of scrimmage, as far as getting off press. He’s precise in and out of his routes. Obviously, he has good hands and he’s good after the catch. Again, very familiar with him as well and I got a lot of respect for those people over there. The coaching staff and the players, they are a good organization.”