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Raiders, Steelers refresh historic rivalry

ALAMEDA — More than two years before the Raiders’ oldest player, kicker Sebastian Janikowski, was born, George Atkinson laid a hit on Pittsburgh’s Lynn Swann in the 1975 AFC championship game that left Swann unconscious and hospitalized for two days.

As part of their classic rivalry that stretched from the 70s into the 80s, the Silver and Black and the Steel Curtain battled often in the postseason.

The two teams clashed with ferociousness that would make today’s new-age NFL legal team shake in their thousand-dollar loafers, grimacing not at the blows delivered, but at the possible lawsuits that might follow.

Pittsburgh (2-4) will travel to face the Raiders (2-4) in a game that promises to be less violent than the ones that spawned plays like the ‘Immaculate Reception.’

The Week 8 skirmish is crucial to each team’s hope of playing football in January and, this time around, the strengths of the two squads appear to be on defense.

While much of Raiders-Steelers history lies undiscovered by today’s youth, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen of course knows it, and called it impressive:

Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen

“You have two teams that have a rich tradition and a history of winning championships. That’s what we aspire to be, so it’s fun to be a part of.”

With rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones teaming with Brett Kiesel to get after quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the Raiders’ cookie-cutter offensive line will have their work cut out for them Sunday.

Steelers veteran safety Troy Polamalu will also be lurking to pounce on Pryor. Allen acknowledged and grinned when asked if Polamalu would be a factor in the team’s game plan:

“Yeah, he’s everywhere. You never know where he’s going to be. He makes a lot of plays and does a great job of timing up snap counts and pressures. … We have to know where he’s at on every single play. He’s one of the catalysts on their football team.”

Offensive lineman Stefan Wisniewski will make his return for the Raiders, which is good news for the team. The bad is that tackle Tony Pashos and guard Andre Gurode are both doubtful and may not see playing time.

Tackle Menelik Watson is also doubtful and will presumably miss his seventh straight game.

Watson missed lots of valuable time during training camp with a calf injury and later a knee injury. Just before he was set to return in early October, his earlier calf injury nagged and he has to practice. Both Gurode and Pashos have played through injuries but are doubtful.

Despite the injuries, Allen said the Raiders had a good week of practice:

“Our guys are looking forward to getting back in front of the home crowd. … I think it’s a great rivalry, a great tradition. Our guys are looking forward to taking part in it.”

Follow @SFBay and @JLeskiwNFL on Twitter and at for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.

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