Steelers Lose Game and Perhaps More on Sunday to The Raiders
(Photo by Justin K. Allen/Getty Images)
Derek Carr threw for 382 yards and two touchdowns as the Las Vegas Raiders defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-17 at Heinz Field. However, the Steelers lost nose tackle Tyson Alualu to an ankle injury; and more importantly, they lost star pass rusher, T.J. Watt, in the second quarter due to a groin injury.
Las Vegas (2-0) was moving the ball consistently but only mustered three field goals in the first half while the Steelers only mustered a 7-play, 75-yard drive that ended on a JuJu Smith-Schuster run on a jet sweep for their only points of the first half.
The drive of the game from the Raiders came in the third quarter when they went on a 7- play, 82-yard drive where Carr connected with Brian Edwards on the first play of the drive, a 23 pass to Hunter Renfrow on a 3rd and 9, and a 30-yard pass to Henry Ruggs to set up a 9-yard catch by Foster Moreau to put Vegas up 16-9.
The Steelers responded with a 5-play, 80-yard drive that was highlighted by a 52 yard deep pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Chase Claypool. Three plays later, Najee Harris scored on his first NFL touchdown when he showed speed and power in the open field on a 25-yard catch and run. After the play, Trai Turner got ejected for spitting on Raiders defensive end Solomon Thomas, who had two sacks on Sunday.
On the Raiders' next drive, the play of the game happened when Derrick Carr evaded the blitz got Minkah Fitzpatrick to bite on a double move to connect with Ruggs on a 61-yard touchdown pass.
The two teams traded field goals and that's how we ended up with the final score.
Where this game was lost for the Steelers is the defense gave up too many chunk plays in
the second half. The defense gave up five plays of 15 plus yards in the second half. Watt and Alualu's absence along with Joe Haden and Devin Bush being inactive due to groin injuries of their own. These missing pieces impacted their pass rush, and in turn, exposed a secondary that came into the season as a question mark. Watt had a sack and a forced fumble on Derek Carr in the first quarter and made an impact on the game as usual.
Another issue for the Steelers is the lack of an offensive identity. It's not an issue of the offensive line despite popular opinion. The Steelers drafted running back Najee Harris in the first round but he only carried the ball 10 times on Sunday. The Steelers did not even try to establish a running game but at least he was involved in the passing game. There were too many instances of miscommunication with his receivers in particular Dionte Johnson who stopped on his route on Ben's interception to Travon Mullen Jr.
The Raiders won the turnover battle (1-0), time of possession (34:22-25:08), and outgained the Steelers 425-331. The Steelers will have to find a way for their offensive line congeal and the best way to do so is to establish a running game. When you do so everything else on offense will fall into place.
In the meantime, the Steelers will have another opportunity on Sunday where they are back at Heinz Field to take on AFC North foe the Cincinnati Bengals.
You can follow Brandon Walker on Twitter at @bwalkerdadon.