Updated: Sep 20, 2021
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Najee Harris - Harris had just 38 yards rushing on 10 carries (more on that later), but he did have a spectacular 25-yard catch-and-run on third-and-10 to cut the Raiders lead to 16-14 with 11:15 remaining. It was Harris' first touchdown of his NFL career. Harris broke a tackle, which would have stopped him short of the first-down marker, and scampered down the sidelines and dove into the end zone for the score. The Steelers need to involve Harris more in the passing game, as he's a big-time threat in open space. If only the Steelers could get the run game going with Harris ...
Robert Spillane - Spillane had a really good game against the Raiders in place of Devin Bush, who was inactive due to a groin injury. Spillane had a team-high 12 total tackles, which included a tackle for a loss. Spillane also made a couple of nice special teams tackles. While Spillane is a liability in coverage, he proved today that he's still valuable as a run-stopping linebacker and special teams ace.
Chris Boswell - With the Steelers trailing 23-14 late in the fourth quarter. Boswell kicked a 56-yard field goal through the uprights to make it a 6-point game with 3:42 remaining. Boswell's 56-yard field goal was the longest in the history of Heinz Field.
Mike Tomlin - With the Steelers trailing 23-14 with 8:36 remaining, the Steelers faced a fourth-and-1 from their 34-yard line. And Tomlin went the conservative route and decided to send out the punt team instead of going for it. With the defense being gassed and time running out, it certainly was a questionable decision by Tomlin. I mean, you can't get a yard on fourth-and-1? I think that's very telling of how much Tomlin doesn't trust this offensive line. The defense gave up just one first down after the punt, but the Raiders ran 2:32 off the clock with four straight runs. Tomlin miscalculated this situation terribly and was living in his fears. And Ben Roethlisberger didn't look too happy when he was running off the field with the punt team coming on. The Steelers should have went for it on fourth-and-1, given the circumstances.
Offensive Line/Running Game - The Steelers just can't run the ball. And while, it's only been two games, it's starting to get concerning that new offensive coordinator Matt Canada and first-round pick running back Najee Harris are not going to make much of a difference. And the reason why is that the offensive line is just not that good and are inexperienced. The Steelers rushed for just 39 yards on 14 carries against the Raiders, an average of 2.8 yards per carry. That's just not good enough, and that doesn't help out 39-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at all. He was sacked just twice today, but was hit 10 times. And they were vicious blows. Roethlisberger won't last the whole season if the offensive line doesn't improve significantly.
Ben Roethlisberger - Roethlisberger has thrown just two touchdowns through two games, and really, he just doesn't look like the same player that we've been accustomed to. He'll connect on an occasional deep ball to Diontae Johnson or Chase Claypool. But the rhythm isn't there. He wasn't in the zone like Derek Carr today at any point of the game, or throughout the first two games for that matter. The offense starts slow as well, scoring just seven points in the first half in their first two games. It doesn't look any different from last year if we're being really honest. It's just two games and the Steelers are at 1-1. So, there's no need to panic. However, offensive coordinator Matt Canada and Roethlisberger need to figure things out offensively sooner than later. As of right now, they have no identity.
Joe Schobert - Schobert was pretty solid in the first half in the efforts to limited Raiders' star tight end Darren Waller, as he had just one reception for 8 yards. But things fell apart in the second half for Schobert, as he got beat by tight end Foster Moreau for a 9-yard touchdown. And then, with the Steelers down 23-17 late in the fourth quarter, Carr connected to Waller for 25 yards on second-and-7 with Schobert in coverage. Peyton Barber picked up 13 yards on the next play, and the Raiders were in field goal range. Four plays later, Daniel Carlson nailed a 45-yard field goal to seal the win for the Raiders.
Minkah Fitzpatrick/The Secondary - The Steelers' secondary had a poor game today, as Derek Carr lit them up for 382 yards and two touchdowns. Carr's second touchdown toss of the game was the dagger, as he connected to wide receiver Henry Ruggs III for a 61-yard touchdown to give the Raiders a 23-14 lead with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter. Free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick bit up on Waller, who the Steelers held to five receptions for 65 yards, and Ruggs put on the burners and got free from cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon for an explosive touchdown. Fitzpatrick told reporters after the game that the Ruggs touchdown was on him "110 percent." In addition, cornerbacks James Pierre and Cam Sutton were not impressive in coverage this afternoon either. Sutton had a missed tackle and the combination of Ruggs and Hunter Renfrow were a handful for Pierre to defend.
Trai Turner - After Najee Harris' 25-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown, right guard Trai Turner got into a tussle and was ejected from the game for spitting in the face of Raiders' linebacker Marquel Lee. Mike Tomlin said after the game that someone spit in Turner's face first, which made Turner respond the way that he did. Regardless, Turner has to keep his cool and not react by stooping to their level. Turner was caught on camera spitting, so you can bet that the league will give him a heavy fine.
Injuries - The Raiders were without three starters on their offensive line, but man, the Steelers were decimated by injuries on defense. Joe Haden and Devin Bush were inactive, as both were dealing with groin injuries. And then Tyson Alualu suffered a fractured ankle in the first quarter. To make matters worse, according to Gerry of Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it's expected that Alualu is out for the season. All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt also suffered a groin injury in the second quarter and did not return in the game. The defense was hampered by injuries and it certainly showed late in the game against the Raiders. But as I noted, the Raiders were dealing with a plethora of injuries, as well. So, no excuses.