The Pittsburgh Steelers were coming off a huge upset win over the Buffalo Bills on the road in Week 1, and their Week 2 game saw them back in the friendly confines of Heinz Field for their home opener vs. the Las Vegas Raiders.
Prior to the game the team received some bad news when it was announced both Joe Haden and Devin Bush were inactive with groin injuries. This news put a stress on the Steelers’ defense, but if there is a side of the ball which can withstand these injuries it is the Pittsburgh defense.
Nonetheless, Derek Carr and company made the cross country trip on a short week after beating the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football in hopes of starting their season 2-0.
After Las Vegas won the opening coin toss, they elected to defer their possession to the second half, giving Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense the football to start the game. The offense was able to do nothing more than flip the field after just one first down on the drive before Pressley Harvin III was called on to punt for the first time of the game.
Starting at their own 15-yard line, the Raiders, like the Steelers’ first drive, was nothing more than a field-flipping drive. On the Steelers’ next drive it was Roethlisberger who was intercepted, giving Las Vegas the ball on the Pittsburgh 41-yard line. The Raiders were able to turn the interception into points, but just a Daniel Carlson 46-yard kick. Las Vegas took a 3-0 lead with 3:10 left in the first quarter.
After big plays to Najee Harris and JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers had the ball at the Las Vegas 44 to start the second quarter. Getting the football on the cusp of field goal range, the Steelers elected to go for it on 4th and 4, but Ben Roethlisberger’s pass fell incomplete, turning it over on downs.
A questionable personal foul call on Robert Spillane hitting Derek Carr put the Raiders right back in field goal range. As Las Vegas worked their way into the red-zone, the Steelers’ defense stiffened and forced another Carlson field goal. The kick was good, making the score 6-0 with 9:34 left in the first half.
The Steelers’ offense turned to the no-huddle offense on their ensuing drive to jump start their production, and it worked. Two straight plays resulted in two first downs, and a 41-yard completion to Dionate Johnson moved the ball inside the 5-yard line. Two plays later the Steelers capped off the drive with a JuJu Smith-Schuster rushing touchdown, the first of his career, to take the lead.
That's some good JuJu‼️@TeamJuJu | : CBS pic.twitter.com/LYbPErNSus— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 19, 2021
The Chris Boswell point after was good, making the score 7-6 with 6:25 left in the second quarter.
Derek Carr and the Las Vegas offense matched the Steelers’ 75-yard drive with one of their own. Carr mixed up his targets as he had the offense in the red-zone at the two-minute warning of the first half. After a QB sneak on 4th and 1, the Raiders started moving in the wrong direction. A false start, holding and illegal man downfield penalty were forced to turn to Carlson again for a field goal. The kick made the score 9-7 at halftime.
The Las Vegas Raiders started the second half with the football, and both teams failed to do anything with their first drives of the third quarter. The Las Vegas second drive was the drive the offense was starting click on all cylinders. After being put in tough spots on critical downs, big completions to Hunter Renfrow and Henry Ruggs moved the ball into the Steelers’ red-zone. Once there, it was a perfect pass from Carr to Foster Moreau. The extra point was good, making the score 16-7 with 5:02 left in the third quarter.
All the Steelers’ offense could muster in the third quarter were field flipping drives, but their rookie punter was able to bail them out with big punts on more than one occasion. Harvin’s third quarter punt was for 42 yards and pinned the Raiders inside their own 5-yard line.
The Raiders were finally stopped without scoring points in the second half, and the Steelers had an opportunity to add to their point total. A 52-yard pass completion from Roethlisberger to Chase Claypool put the Steelers in scoring range, and it was the rookie, Najee Harris, putting an exclamation point on the drive with a nice catch and run for the touchdown.
First time in the end zone for @ohthatsNajee22!— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 19, 2021
: CBS pic.twitter.com/W4wvAuZ6JW
The point-after by Boswell was good, making the score 16-14 with 11:15 left in the fourth quarter.
Needing an answer, Derek Carr continued to remain red-hot. The Raiders almost completely ignored the run, and relied on picking apart the Steelers’ secondary. On 3rd and 10 Carr hit Henry Ruggs for a 61-yard touchdown reception, making the score 23-14 after the extra point with 9:35 left in regulation.
Desperate for a drive, the Steelers were able to gain just 9 yards on their next drive. Facing a 4th and 1, Mike Tomlin elected to punt the ball instead of go for it on 4th and 1. The Harvin punt put the Steelers’ defense back on the field, and kill valuable time off the clock. After just one first down, the Raiders punted the football back to Pittsburgh with 5:51 remaining in regulation.
Roethlisberger connected on big conversion plays to Diontae Johnson and Najee Harris, which moved them into field goal range. After failing on 3rd and 10, Mike Tomlin elected to go for the 56-yard field goal. Chris Boswell nailed it to make the score 23-17 with 3:41 left in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders put the icing on the cake when Carlson made a 45-yard kick to make the score 26-17. The score would stand as the final.
The Steelers’ loss was the first of the season, moving their record to 1-1 on the season. The team now prepares for their first AFC North divisional game next Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals come to Heinz Field.