The Pittsburgh Steelers showed their resilience and versatility in a 23-18 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday night. The Steelers improved to 2-1 on the season, while the Raiders suffered their first loss and dropped to 2-1.
Pickett shines in his best game as a pro
The Steelers offense, which had struggled in the first two weeks, found its rhythm and balance against the Raiders defense. Quarterback Kenny Pickett, the rookie sensation from Pittsburgh, had his first multi-touchdown game in the NFL, throwing for 264 yards and two scores. He also ran for 32 yards and avoided any turnovers.
Pickett displayed his accuracy and poise, completing 22 of 31 passes and spreading the ball to eight different receivers. He connected with George Pickens, his favorite target, for six catches and 97 yards. He also found Pat Freiermuth, the rookie tight end, for a 12-yard touchdown in the third quarter that gave the Steelers a 23-7 lead.
Pickett credited his offensive line, which gave him ample time and protection, and his running game, which gained 101 yards on 25 carries. He said he felt more comfortable and confident as the game went on.
“I think we just executed better. We had a good game plan and we stuck to it. We ran the ball well, we made some big plays in the passing game, and we didn’t make any mistakes. I think we showed what we can do when we play as a unit,” Pickett said after the game.
Steelers defense dominates again
The Steelers defense, which had scored two touchdowns in a win over Cleveland last week, continued its dominant performance against the Raiders. The Steelers forced three interceptions of Jimmy Garoppolo, who had a rough night against the Steelers’ pressure and coverage.
Garoppolo completed 18 of 33 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw three costly picks. Two of them were by Levi Wallace, the cornerback who had a breakout game. Wallace also had six tackles and two pass breakups. The other interception was by Patrick Peterson, the veteran corner who joined the Steelers this offseason. Peterson also had four tackles and a pass breakup.
The Steelers also sacked Garoppolo four times, with two of them by T.J. Watt, the star outside linebacker who leads the league with six sacks. Watt also had five tackles, two tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. He said he was happy with the defense’s effort and intensity.
“We played with a lot of energy and passion. We wanted to make a statement and show that we are one of the best defenses in the league. We made some big plays and we got off the field when we needed to. We have a lot of talent and a lot of pride on this defense,” Watt said.
Raiders fall short in comeback attempt
The Raiders, who had won their first two games in dramatic fashion, could not overcome their mistakes and the Steelers’ defense. The Raiders’ only bright spot was Davante Adams, the star receiver who had eight catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown, a 24-yarder from Garoppolo, cut the Steelers’ lead to 23-15 with 4:12 left in the game.
The Raiders then recovered an onside kick and drove to the Steelers’ 25-yard line. However, Garoppolo threw his third interception to Wallace, who sealed the game for the Steelers with 12 seconds left.
The Raiders also missed a field goal and had a touchdown nullified by a penalty. They were held to 86 yards rushing on 21 attempts, and could not sustain drives against the Steelers’ defense. They also allowed the Steelers to convert 8 of 15 third downs and control the clock for 32:48.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden said he was disappointed with the loss, but praised the Steelers for their performance.
“They outplayed us and outcoached us. They have a great team and a great coach. They made more plays than we did and they deserved to win. We have to learn from this and get better. We have a lot of season left and we have to bounce back,” Gruden said.