When the Pittsburgh Steelers and Las Vegas Raiders were slated to square off in 2022, it made sense the two teams would play in December to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception. That’s exactly what the NFL did, placing the game in prime time in Week 16, but what no one knew at the time of the schedule was release was the Steelers’ decision to retire Franco Harris’ No. 32, and the tragic passing of the legend just days before the game.
With sad hearts, the Steelers still had a game to play, and the two 6-8 teams were clinging to very thin playoff hopes in the AFC Playoff Picture. The Steelers won the opening coin toss, and elected to defer their possession to the second half. This mean Derek Carr and the Raiders offense took the field first.
Las Vegas’ first drive was an impressive one, culminating in an opening-drive touchdown. However, the biggest play of the drive was a 3rd and 16 screen pass which gave the Raiders a new set of downs instead of settling for a field goal. When they reached the red-zone, it was Carr who hit Hunter Renfrow who was able to make two defenders miss on his way into the end-zone. The extra point made the score 7-0 with 6:38 left in the first quarter.
Kenny Pickett and the Steelers’ first drive was only able to flip the field before punting the ball back to Las Vegas. The Raiders only had one first down before punting for the first time in the game. To start the second quarter the Steelers were able to finally move the ball into scoring range. Mixing up Najee Harris runs and Kenny Pickett passes primarily to Diontae Johnson, they settled for a 43-yard Chris Boswell field goal attempt. The kick sailed wide left, keeping the score 7-0.
Carr and the Raiders failed on their next drive, giving Pickett and the Steelers offense the ball at their own 10-yard line for their next drive. Pittsburgh’s ensuing drive was one which took up a massive amount of time as they moved methodically down the field. After completing a 4th and 1 quarterback sneak, the Steelers faced a 3rd and 8 coming out of the two-minute warning. The pass intended for Pat Freiermuth went through his hands, and the Steelers had to settle for a Boswell 44-yard field goal. The kick was good, making the score 7-3 with 1:49 left in the half.
The time remaining was enough time for Carr to move the Raiders down the field. The biggest play was a completion to tight end Darren Waller, in triple coverage, to move the offense in the red-zone with 24 seconds left in the second quarter. The bend, but don’t break, defense held strong in this instance. Daniel Carlson was called on for a 40-yard field goal which gave the Raiders a 10-3 lead heading into halftime.
In Week 15, the Steelers had a 3rd quarter to never forget. That drive, against the Carolina Panthers, took up over 11 minutes and had 21 total plays. Getting the ball to start the 3rd quarter vs. Las Vegas, and this drive, although looking promising, ended with a Kenny Pickett interception when he was pressured in Las Vegas territory.
After Pickett’s first interception since the bye week, Derek Carr’s pass intended for his tight end was tipped and intercepted by Arthur Maulet.
Just one play, and the Steelers’ offense was right back on the field. After a big 3rd down conversion to Dionate Johnson, the drive stalled and Mike Tomlin elected to try a 52-yard Boswell field goal attempt. That kick was his second miss of the game, keeping the score at 10-3 with 7:17 left in the third quarter.
It looked as if the Raiders were going to add to their point total, but Carr was picked off again, this time by Minkah Fitzpatrick.
For the second time to this point in the game, the Steelers were unable to convert a turnover into points. The following offensive drive lasted just three plays before Pressley Harvin III was called on to punt the ball away.
At the end of the third quarter, an Alex Highsmith sack ended the Raiders’ drive and forced a punt. The Steelers started their next drive at the 45-yard line after a poor punt. It was another promising drive, and a similar end. The end, being a field goal attempt. This time, Chris Boswell was able to hit the 40-yard field goal to make the score 10-6 with 9:47 left in regulation.
The Steelers defense continued to stay hot, and a big Cam Heyward sack on 2nd down on the next drive equated in another Las Vegas punt.
With 5:56 remaining in the 4th quarter, the Steelers offense needed to hit pay dirt for the first time in the game to leave victorious. The drive lasted just 3 plays. After the unpopular decision to punt the ball away, the Steelers defense forced a three-and-out of their own, getting the ball back to the offense.
With 2:55 left, and two timeouts, the Steelers quickly moved the ball near midfield at the two-minute warning. Passes to Pat Freiermuth gave the offense new sets of downs, and then it was Najee Harris doing damage, but as a receiver. Back-to-back passes to Najee put the Steelers in the red-zone with 1:05 remaining.
Facing a 4th and 1, Kenny Pickett’s quarterback sneak was enough to move the chains, but the Steelers had to exhaust their timeouts during the process. With 50 seconds left at the 14-yard line, Pickett hit George Pickens for the touchdown, giving the Steelers the lead.
Chris Boswell’s extra point was good, making the score 13-10 with 46 seconds remaining.
With the Raiders having all of their timeouts, the Steelers would need a defensive stop to win the game. That stop would come in the form of a Cameron Sutton interception. Despite the interception, the Steelers would still need a first down to ice the game. They got that via a Connor Heyward run.
The win keeps the Steelers’ playoff hopes alive for at least another week, and moves their record to 7-8 on the season as they prepare for the Baltimore Raves on the road in Week 17. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they press on throughout the regular season.