They are two of the best at what they do and there is a chance neither will get to prove it against the other. This Sunday the Oakland Raiders will march into Pittsburgh where they’ll try and make it two straight W’s at Heinz Field and they could be doing so without the services of All-Galaxy cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
Not that playing without Aso is anything new. Just before the bye the Raiders went into their biggest game in seven years without the best cover corner in the game. Stanford Routt played a brilliant game against the Chiefs but the Steelers are a much different animal.
If the position of wide receiver is supposed to be reserved for divas who hate getting their jerseys dirty, then Hines Ward never got that memo. Ward is as tough as a piece of petrified jerky and just to further his legend he’s hell bent on playing this Sunday despite suffering a concussion during the Steelers’ loss to New England.
While Ward’s tough guy persona has, at times, bordered on Rodney Harrison territory he is an unquestioned leader and has helped define the Steeler mystique. On the other hand, Nnamdi is about as different in contrast to Ward as you’ll find. While he too is an unquestioned leader among the Silver and Black, Aso has the reputation as being one of the nicest guys in the league.
As Asomugha continues to recover from his ankle sprain suffered three weeks ago against Seattle, he too is in doubt for Sunday’s clash. While most were relaxing during the bye week, Asomugha was getting treatment for his injury at the team facility.
It is doubtful the Raiders would allow Nnamdi to shadow Ward all day long (ala Larry Fitzgerald week 3) there is a definite need for the Raiders to have a healthy secondary against the playmaking bunch of receivers that Pittsburgh boasts. Mike Wallace is as legit a deep threat as you’ll find and that spells trouble when combined with a QB who is better outside the pocket then in. Richard Seymour and company will have to be in Ben Roethlisberger’s grill all day long.
With practice set to resume Wednesday, we’ll know more about these two top tier players and their health status soon enough. Should one be medically cleared but not the other it would make for a bit of a letdown. Steeler fans had the excuse of going to war without Troy Polamalu last year and Raider Nation has no designs on using Aso’s absence as any excuse in this rematch.