Head to Head: Raiders RB Darren McFadden vs. Steelers LB James Farrior
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Off the field, Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden is more concerned about his brother, Walter, who is a backup cornerback with the Oakland Raiders. On the field, he and the rest of his defensive teammates will be more concerned with the Raiders' other McFadden -- Darren, the NFL's most productive running back.
Darren McFadden not only leads the league in rushing yards per game (108.6), he also serves as a pass receiver and, on occasion, lead conductor of the Wildcat offense -- a role he learned at the University of Arkansas.
In seven games, he has combined for 999 yards offense and six touchdowns, including his 24 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's awesome," inside linebacker James Farrior said. "He's getting to the holes, he has great speed and he has great vision. He's playing as well as any running back in the league right now."
McFadden has rushed for more than 100 yards four times in seven games this season, the most recent coming Oct. 31 during a 33-3 victory against the Seattle Seahawks. A week earlier, he returned after missing two games with a right hamstring injury to rush for 165 yards on 16 carries and score four touchdowns in a 59-14 victory against the Denver Broncos.
"He's a fast powerful guy with some juice to him," said outside linebacker James Harrison. "We're going to have to play extremely well and keep his big plays to a minimum."
As a team, the Raiders are second in the league in rushing, averaging 162.2 yards per game -- a number exceeded only by the Kansas City Chiefs.
But at 1 p.m. today at Heinz Field, they will face the league's best rushing defense in the Steelers, who allow an average of 63.2 yards per game and have allowed just one 100-yard rusher in the past 43 games.
The Steelers are the only NFL team to not allow a run of 20 yards or longer this season, although the longest came in Sunday's 39-26 loss to the New England Patriots when running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a 17-yard run on his first carry of the game. Green-Ellis finished with 87 yards on 18 carries, the most against the Steelers this season.
"I think we've got to be able to do both things well, truth be told," said Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell, who has been the starter during the team's three-game winning streak, tops in the AFC. "I understand that Pittsburgh is a team that only gives up 2.8 yard per carry. We understand it is tough to run against them, but you have to be able to do both. You saw New England, they were throwing the ball. They still had some plays in there where they were running the ball to keep them honest sometimes."
McFadden (6-2, 210) does that all by himself.
He was the fourth overall choice in the 2008 draft, the same year the Steelers selected running back Rashard Mendenhall with the 23rd overall selection. It's probably no coincidence that McFadden and Mendenhall are tied for the second-most runs of 20 yards or longer in the NFL (8), trailing only Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants (10).
But, when the Raiders scored 21 points in the fourth quarter and rallied for a 27-24 victory last year at Heinz Field, they did it by throwing the ball. Former Seton LaSalle High School quarterback Bruce Gradkowski threw three touchdowns in the final quarter, including a 75-yarder to Louis Murphy, to beat the Steelers.
A closer look at the game within the game
First Published November 21, 2010 12:00 am