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 got their mojo back, thanks to a stellar performance by rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. Pickett, who was publicly challenged by coach Mike Tomlin after a lackluster outing in Week 2, responded with his first multi-touchdown pass game in the NFL. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. He also ran for 32 yards on five carries.
Pickett did a great job of spreading the ball around to his playmakers, after mostly relying on George Pickens in the first two weeks. Pickens still had a big night, catching seven passes for 113 yards, including a 32-yard catch that set up a field goal by Chris Boswell. But Pickett also connected with Pat Freiermuth for a touchdown, Allen Robinson for four catches and 56 yards, and Najee Harris for three catches and 28 yards.
Pickett also benefited from a solid protection by his offensive line, which allowed only one sack. He also had more run support from Harris, who rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The Steelers running game eclipsed 100 yards for the first time in 2023.
Steelers defense forces three turnovers
The Steelers defense also had another strong outing, forcing three interceptions of Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo opened the game with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams, but struggled for the rest of the night. He finished with 18 of 33 for 212 yards and two touchdowns, along with three picks.
The Steelers pass rush was relentless, sacking Garoppolo four times. T.J. Watt had two sacks, while Cameron Heyward and Alex Highsmith each had one. Watt also forced a fumble that was recovered by Highsmith.
The Steelers secondary was equally impressive, with cornerbacks Levi Wallace and Patrick Peterson coming up with big interceptions. Wallace had two picks, including one that sealed the game with 12 seconds left. Peterson had one interception that he returned for 27 yards, setting up a touchdown by Harris.
The Steelers defense also limited the Raiders’ running game to just 76 yards on 24 carries. Josh Jacobs, who missed Week 2 with an injury, was held to 39 yards on 13 carries.
Raiders’ lone bright spot: Davante Adams
The Raiders’ lone bright spot on the night was Adams, who had a monster game against his former team. Adams, who signed with the Raiders as a free agent in the offseason, caught nine passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown came late in the fourth quarter and cut the Steelers’ lead to five points.
Adams was the only Raider who consistently beat the Steelers’ coverage, as he showed his speed, route-running and chemistry with Garoppolo. He also drew several penalties on the Steelers’ defenders, including a pass interference call that negated an interception by Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Adams was clearly motivated to face his former team, as he celebrated his touchdowns by throwing the ball into the stands. He also exchanged words with some of his former teammates, including Watt and Peterson.
Boswell delivers clutch kicks
The Steelers’ successful evening also included clutch kicking by Boswell, who drilled field goals of 44, 54 and 52 yards. Boswell was perfect on all three of his field goal attempts and both of his extra point attempts.
Boswell’s kicks were crucial in keeping the Steelers ahead of the Raiders throughout the game. His first field goal gave the Steelers a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. His second field goal extended the lead to 16-7 in the third quarter. His third field goal made it 23-15 in the fourth quarter.
Boswell has been reliable for the Steelers this season, making all seven of his field goal attempts and all six of his extra point attempts. He is tied for second in the league in field goals made and fourth in points scored among kickers.