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Raiders' Stefen Wisniewski likely to start vs. Steelers

  • Oakland Raiders center Stefen Wisniewski should be back in the starting lineup on Sunday. (REED HOFFMANN / Associated Press, 2011)

ALAMEDA — Stefen Wisniewski looks to be the only lineman ready to return when the Raiders come back from their bye, but considering the opposition, it's like a cavalry charge.

Wisniewski's presence at center Sunday against Pittsburgh should enhance the Raiders' blocking as a whole and have them better equipped to face the myriad zone blitz combinations of Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

“It's huge,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said after Wisniewski was limited in practice for the second consecutive day. “He's such an important part of what's going on up front and making sure everybody is in the right place.

“It's a calming factor to me and everybody up front and for the quarterback, as well.”

Wisniewski missed the past two games with a right knee strain, a win over the San Diego Chargers and a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, and he agonized over both.

Pittsburgh has only eight sacks in six games but has played well defensively the past two weeks in a 19-6 win over the New York Jets and a 19-16 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

LeBeau refined the zone blitz out of a 3-4 defense while working for the Cincinnati Bengals in 1984 in part to deal with the increasing number of West Coast offensive systems.

At age 76, LeBeau is one of the only coordinators in the league without a reference call sheet, storing all information in his head. The occasionally bizarre pre-snap looks can make little sense to young quarterbacks — hence LeBeau's 16-2 record against rookie QBs since 2004.

The Steelers, however, know exactly what they're doing. LaMarr Woodley, their left outside linebacker, leads the team with five sacks, and free safety Troy Polamalu remains a threat against both run and pass in his 11th NFL season.

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