Nnamdi Asomugha is more than a Pro Bowler, All-Pro and the league's highest-paid cornerback. He's also the one Raiders player unafraid to voice his opinion about things that need addressing.
Asomugha this week said the Raiders defense is too predictable and needs to become more in step with the way offenses have changed in recent years.
"We're a team that chooses to be who we are, regardless of who we're playing against, and regardless of the matchups or the things that the other team is going to present," Asomugha said Wednesday. "We've got one way of doing it and that's what we do, and teams can get us into some tough situations."
The Raiders way of playing defense is based on managing general partner Al Davis' belief that you dominate the man across from you. Nothing fancy, just win the one-on-one matchups, and the desired results will follow. That means man-to-man coverage and few blitzes.
That works fine, Asomugha said, as long as you have the talent to pull it off, adding that executing a successful defense also requires some flexibility.
"The game changes," Asomugha said. "The game is never going to be the same as it was 10 years ago or five years ago with the rule changes and things like that. You have to be able to adapt."
The Raiders are 29th in terms of average yards allowed per game but third with 79 negative-yardage plays. It's the big plays that are killing them. They have allowed 54 plays of 20 yards or more, including 10 for 384 yards against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
Raiders coach Tom Cable said he thinks defensive coordinator John Marshall has mixed up his play-calling more than the Raiders did under Marshall's predecessor, Rob Ryan, in recent seasons.
"That's been the issue pretty much all year," Cable said of the Raiders' propensity for allowing big plays. "I don't know if that's really the scheme. That's staying disciplined with what they're doing."
"We will unleash hell here in December because we have to," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after his team lost to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night. "We won't go in a shell. We'll go into attack mode, because that's what's required."
The Steelers are 6-5 and tied for the final AFC playoff spot with five games left. The Raiders are 3-8 and just hoping to finish strong.
Tomlin said the inspiration for his fiery postgame comment came the night before the game.
"I watched my favorite movie, 'Gladiator,' the night before the game at the hotel," Tomlin said. "It just came to mind. Russell Crowe-inspired."
Defensive end Greg Ellis (knee) missed all four practices this week and is doubtful for the game, Cable said. Rookie Matt Shaughnessy is expected to start in place of Ellis at left end.