ALAMEDA — Raiders defensive tackle Pat Sims knows how difficult it is to sack Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
For five years the former Cincinnati Bengal tried, mostly in vain, to get Roethlisberger down. In eight games against the 6-foot-5 quarterback, Sims had 1 1-2 sacks and watched as Big Ben led Pittsburgh to a trio of playoff berths.
“He's a strong quarterback and he's big, you know what I'm saying?” Sims said Thursday. “He's a quarterback that's harder to take down. I love going against Pittsburgh. That's my kind of style, my kind of football.”
Roethlisberger's been sacked 22 times this season, tied for seventh-most in the NFL.
Sims, who signed with Oakland in the offseason, is looking forward to getting another shot at Roethlisberger and would love nothing better than to have his first sack with the Raiders come against his longtime rival.
Known primarily as a run stopper, Sims has come close a few times this season but he remains the lone member of Oakland's starting defensive line without a sack.
Getting one against Roethlisberger would be a definite step forward, though it often takes more than one defender to drag the 240-pound quarterback down.
“If you get a nice lick on him, you really don't need multiple guys,” Sims said. “You just have to know how to rush Ben. We've been working on that this week so we'll be ready. He's a quarterback just like everybody else.”
With only seven sacks in the last four games, Oakland's defense overall needs to improve its pass rush.
The Raiders led the NFL in that department after two games but have since gone cold. Although they've continued to pressure opposing quarterbacks, the sacks have been few and far between.
“We're not perfect but I know by the end of the season we're going to be on all cylinders,” Sims said. “We're still developing. We have moments where we're playing physical and sometimes where we play finesse.”
Oakland may need a little bit of both styles against Pittsburgh.
The Steelers have won back-to-back games after an 0-4 start, and they're getting much better play from their quarterback.
Over his last two games, Roethlisberger has completed nearly 76 percent of his throws while passing for 424 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He threw five interceptions in the Steelers' first four games but hasn't been picked off since.
Roethlisberger has also thrown just seven touchdowns and is on pace for his fewest since 2010.
Still, the Raiders know the Steelers and their quarterback are a serious threat offensively.
In his three previous games against Oakland, Roethlisberger has been nearly flawless while throwing for 937 yards and nine touchdowns with just one interception.
The Raiders beat the Steelers a year ago when Roethlisberger passed for 384 yards and four touchdowns.
“You have to approach him as if he's not down,” Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “He's not down if somebody's hanging on him, because he's so strong. You have to keep taking your shots and keep pulling and scratching and fighting because that's what he does. If he does get out, get the guy on the ground.”
Notes: The game has sold out, which means the Raiders will avoid a local television blackout. … Backup center Andre Gurode (quad) and safety Tyvon Branch (ankle) were held out of practice. … Center Stefen Wisniewski (calf), LB Kaluka Maiava (hamstring) and CB Tracy Porter (shoulder) were limited.