Oakland Raiders vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Players of the Game

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Nov 8, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (84) runs on a fifty-nine yard pass reception as Oakland Raiders free safety Charles Woodson (24) defends during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 38-35. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Brown

It goes without saying that Antonio Brown was one of the key players for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as he set a franchise-record with 17 receptions for 284 yards.

Oakland simply couldn’t find a was to cover Brown, as he appeared open on nearly every play with either of the Raiders’ top two corners opposite of him in coverage. With D.J. Hayden in coverage Brown caught eight of his nine targets for 119 yards, while David Amerson allowed eight of the 12 targets for 159 yards, via ProFootballFocus.com.

Oakland simply didn’t have the personnel to cover Brown man-to-man coverage, therefore allowing Brown to run nearly whatever route he wanted to get open. Without a strong press-coverage cornerback, Oakland was forced to play off the ball a majority of the time, which opened up Brown on the easy underneath routes. When Oakland attempted to press him off the line, he oftentimes beat the defensive back deep for a large gain down the field.

The Raiders’ secondary also struggled to maintain coverage even when Roethlisberger was under pressure, for Brown was too often wide open when Big Ben was forced to scramble out of the pocket or hit just as he released the football.

Though Brown deserves all of the credit in his record-setting performance, his impact on the game only further emphasizes Oakland’s need for added talent in the secondary. A banged-up Charles Woodson simply can’t do it all for the Raiders, and even though Oakland was without T.J. Carrie and Amerson flashed at times, the rest of the Raiders’ secondary are proven liabilities in coverage.

While Oakland has seemingly fought their way into the conversation for a wild-card spot, their inability to contain opposing offenses through the air will serve as a major limiting factor against top offenses in the NFL.

Next: Players of the Game: Michael Crabtree