ALAMEDA -- Twice a year after becoming starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2004, Carson Palmer studied, planned and plotted for ways to get first downs and touchdowns against Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
So when Palmer, now the Raiders quarterback, met with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp on Tuesday to start preparations to face Pittsburgh on Sunday at O.co Coliseum, the meeting lasted a little longer than usual.
"He gave me a lot of insight, and that's very helpful for my mindset going into the game to attack this defense," Knapp said Thursday.
It's a tall order.
Pittsburgh and its 3-4 scheme is perennially one of the league's toughest defenses against both the run and pass, and the Raiders are off to a slow start with a new system of offense.
As Palmer can attest, LeBeau and his zone blitz schemes have baffled and beat up offenses for years. The Steelers are first or second in the NFL in virtually every meaningful defensive statistic since LeBeau arrived in 2004, and beat Palmer's Bengals eight times in 12 games.
(Palmer didn't play as a rookie in 2003 and missed the 2008 Pittsburgh games with an elbow injury).
The first time Palmer made it to the playoffs, he threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Chris Henry on his first pass, only to have his left knee blown out after the release by Steelers defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen.
The Steelers won that game as well, 31-17 in January 2006.
Pittsburgh will come at Palmer as it always has -- from a variety of angles and with relentless physicality.
"There's some different pieces to the puzzle, but it's really the same scheme," Palmer said. "There's always a new wrinkle or two each week. But as far as preparing for a fistfight in the trenches, battles on the outside, getting rid of the ball on time and finding ways to run the ball, it's the way you prepare for them every time."
Knapp said Palmer's contributions were in the area of personnel and went beyond what is obvious on film.
"He had some nuances I would not have known about and has brought to my attention," Knapp said. "He can tell me, 'OK, this DB might play it this way, with this 'backer we've had success doing this.' Since Carson is an intellectual-type quarterback, he does draw from good knowledge."
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin doesn't see much difference between the Palmer he saw in Bengals stripes and the one now in silver and black. Palmer's Bengals swept the Steelers in 2009 en route to their first division title since 2005.
"He looks a lot like Carson," Tomlin told Bay Area reporters by conference call. "He's highly accurate, he's very good in play-pass. He can turn his back to the defense and come up throwing. He has better mobility than people give him credit for. He's a competitor; (I've) got a great deal of respect for Carson Palmer."
Palmer is 2-6 against Tomlin-coached teams.
Defensively, Palmer is impressed with Pittsburgh's annual veteran presence and they way the Steelers gradually work in young talent.
"They don't miss on draft picks," Palmer said. "If you look at their experience, there are three or four guys that are 10-year guys. And when these guys study film, they're not studying a new defensive coordinator's scheme. They're studying the same scheme. They're studying the guy that was the starter in front of them and now it's their turn."0