The Steelers have an early bye week this season, week 4, and it’s coming at the right time as they have several key players nursing injuries. However, before they can get to the bye, they’ll have to go to Oakland to play the Oakland Raiders without starting safety Troy Polamalu, starting outside linebacker James Harrison, and starting running back Rashard Mendenhall once again.
Harrison and Mendenhall both are yet to play this season with knee problems and Polamalu will miss his 2nd straight game this week with a calf problem. As talented as Mendenhall and Harrison are, Polamalu is the one they need healthy the most. The played well against the Jets last week without him, but prior to last week, over the last 3 years, when he plays, the Steelers are 27-8 and allow 14.4 points per game and without him, they’re 6-7 and allow 21.5 points per game. That’s not all him, but a lot of that is him. He’s their only irreplaceable defensive player and his mere presence can disrupt passing plays and running plays.
Still even without that trio, they have an obvious advantage on paper over the lowly Raiders, who are also very banged up with injuries and coming off an embarrassing 35-13 loss at the hands of the Miami Dolphins. The Steelers do have a tendency to fall flat on the road over the last 2 years, especially against inferior opponents. This team is -40 on the road since the start of last week, including playoffs, and +137 at home. They beat Indianapolis by just 3, Kansas City by just 4, and Cleveland by just 3 last year. However, heading into a bye, they should be very focused and dominate the Raiders as they’re supposed to. Road favorites of 3+ and home favorites of 7+ are a combined 34-18 ATS heading into a bye since 2002, as long as their opponent isn’t also heading into a bye.