For nearly every young man who grows up watching professional sports, there is no bigger dream than playing for their childhood team.
This Sunday, Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor will take the field intent on defeating his childhood team and a quarterback he looked up to in high school.
The Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4) travel to Oakland to face the Raiders (2-4) and a battle that could be a departure from both teams’ legacies.
The Raiders and Steelers were both molded as franchises in the 1970s by hard-nosed run games and gritty defenses. In today’s safety-first NFL, both teams have worked on improving their aerial game on both sides of the ball.
The Raiders have averaged just under 130 yards per game on the ground, ninth in the NFL, but are dead last in passing yards. Pryor is looking to change that:
“I was with Tom (House) a period, we went to a local field in the Oakland area to clean up some stuff and I got better. It was a great time to get some work in. I didn’t get any days off but there’s no time to get off, you gotta work constantly to improve.”
Pryor began working with House, a mechanics coach and former professional baseball pitcher, during the offseason. The young quarterback has credited House with the improvements of his throwing motions and general levels of skill.
Of Mike Tomlin and the Steelers defense, Pryor had one word to describe them:
Pryor reminisced on growing up watching quarterback Ben Rothlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu:
“I remember growing up being a senior in high school watching Big Ben when he was younger, not to say he’s old. Watching him, Polamalu, running around. He’s doing the same thing right now.”
While at Ohio State University, Pryor was graded at the high end of perfectionism. He never wanted to make a mistake, and when he did, he would grill himself until it was fixed.
His demeanor during press conferences suggests little change, though he acknowledged he doesn’t want to be too hard on himself.
From working in the pocket to getting the ball to Denarius Moore, Pryor is still looking for visible improvements across the board:
“Sometimes it’s very hard (to adjust to pressure during games) because you got a guy coming through the A-gap and you don’t have time to set your feet and throw. … What I have got to get better at is reacting off what (defenses) are showing because I know every defense that a team could possibly run. I study a lot and I understand defenses and I know. I just gotta react, put it on the field, and get (receivers) the ball.”
Pryor told the media that a big area that he’s working on improving his accuracy, especially when pressure isn’t imminent:
“It’s more when the pocket is very clean. The third and eight, I missed to Denarius and that was embarrassing to me and it’s something that I gotta hit, third and eight. … That was disappointing, something I looked at and have to clean up.”
Moore is currently on pace for his first 1,000 yard season and running back Darren McFadden is starting to show signs that life remains in his legs. After solid performances against the Washington Redskins and Jacksonville Jaguars, McFadden is sporting 3.9 yards-per-carry and has a pair of touchdowns.
Pittsburgh ranks 19th in the league in rushing yards allowed and offensive ground game ranks 27th.
Rookie back LeVeon Bell is a major upgrade from Isaac Redman, who the Steelers released earlier in the week, so the Raiders front seven (which ranks 10th in the NFL stopping the run) won’t get a whole lot of time off.