ALAMEDA -- Neither linebacker James Harrison nor strong safety Troy Polamalu practiced for Pittsburgh on Thursday, meaning the likelihood of the two, who have a combined 11 Pro Bowls and six All-Pro selections, missing Sunday's game against the Raiders seems fairly certain.Especially with the Steelers embarking on a bye week after playing the Raiders, which would give the two important cogs of their defense an extra week to rest.Not that the Raiders think their potential absence would change Pittsburgh's defensive philosophy much, if at all."The scheme is still the same," said Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. "But what it does help is it gives us a little clearer picture. Because Polamalu doesn't always line up where you think he's supposed to be, because he's got such great intangibles and speed that he gives you some looks that tell you one thing, but you actually get another. That doesn't happen as much when he's not in the game."GUTIERREZ:Knapp: We need some perspective and patienceAnd Harrison?"His presence as a pass rusher definitely is felt, no doubt about it," Knapp said. "They still have good edge pass rushers, though. The rest of the group theyve got, it still gives you a big challenge. But hes very unique, hes very special."Said tight end Brandon Myers: "Troy, hes the type of player that youve got to know where hes at at all times. So were preparing like hes going to play. Same with Harrison because hes a dominant player. Youve just got to be ready for whatever. I dont think it necessarily changes them that much if theyre not in there."
OAKLAND – The Raiders sat nine offensive starters in last week’s exhibition opener. That front line assembled for the first time in game Saturday against the Rams and quickly found midseason form.
Quarterback Derek Carr was largely on point in a 21-17 victory to Los Angeles at Oakland Coliseum. Amari Cooper showed great hops. Michael Crabtree juked a cornerback out of his shoes and scored a touchdown. Jared Cook proved a difficult cover in the middle of the field. And Marshawn was predictably Marshawn, running like a battering ram on speed skates.
The defense, by contrast, needs some serious work.
Except for Khalil Mack. That’s dude’s all right. He had a sack, three quarterback pressures, four tackles, with two for a loss, in three series.
The rest of his unit was off kilter against L.A. Communication still needs work on the back end. Questions remain at inside linebacker and cornerback.
Coaches have three weeks to iron things out, and get that unit running right. Here are a few takeaways from Saturday’s exhibition.
Marshawn meets hometown crowd: Oakland native Marshawn Lynch played in his hometown for the first time in silver and black. He didn’t play much, removing his pads after just one series.
His cameo was quick and productive, with two carries for 10 yards. His trademark burst and balance was on display, as it was throughout camp. Lynch won’t need much work this preseason, but should get the lion’s share of carries when games count.
He looks as agile as ever, without the rust expected following a year away from football.
Smith suits up:Raiders cornerback Sean Smith played in sub packages with the starting unit, playing outside in the nickel. He had a relatively solid game despite mounting legal issues. He was charged with felony assault and battery on Thursday, when he turned himself in to Pasadena police and was released after posting an $80,000 bond.
Smith had two tackles and a nice pass defensed covering Sammy Watkins on a deep route.
Jenkins enters the fray: The Raiders are still searching for someone to pair with Cory James on the inside. Marquel Lee has worked with the first unit since training camp began in the base defense. He struggled some early, and gave way to veteran Jelani Jenkins in the second series.
That job remains open. Lee is a favorite, though Jenkins will challenge and prospect of signing someone off the street remains.
Backup quarterbacks still battling
EJ Manuel entered Saturday’s game with a clear lead on the backup quarterback position battle. The veteran received most every second-unit rep in camp, started last week’s game at Arizona and was first off the bench on Saturday.
He wasn’t great against the Rams, completing 3-of-9 passes for 16 yards.
That may have cracked the door for second-year pro Connor Cook. The Michigan State alum has struggled some in practice, but showed well working with the third unit on Saturday. He was with 7-of-10 passing for 70 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown strike to Johnny Holton.
OAKLAND -- Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat down during the national anthem prior to Saturday's preseason game versus the Los Angeles Rams, as he did the week before at Arizona.
Marshawn took a seat during the national anthem— Scott Bair (@BairNBCS) August 20, 2017
Lynch hasn't addressed his reason for sitting during the national anthem, an action several others have used to protest racial issues and the mistreatment of minorities in this country. He has sat intermitently during his career, while standing at attention and remaining in the locker room at others.
Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick popularized the movement last year by kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner. Lynch was retired in 2016, but voiced support for Kaepernick in an interview with Conan O'Briend.
Lynch wasn't the only Raider making a gesture during the anthem. Rookie safety Shalom Luani kneeled during part of the song. Quarterback Derek Carr placed his hand on Khalil Mack's shoulder during the song. Bruce Irvin had his fist in the air.
Lynch stayed seated by coolers . . . S Shalom Luani took a knee for half of the anthem, then rose. Carr had hand on Mack's shoulder.— Jerry McDonald (@Jerrymcd) August 20, 2017
Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett has been vocal about his protest while sitting through the anthem twice in as many preseason games.