The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to eke out with the 13-10 victory on Saturday night, mainly due to a fantastic defensive performance that included three interceptions, overcoming two missed field goals and an overall lackluster offensive showing but stepping up late and getting their only touchdown in the clutch when it mattered most, keeping their season alive and improving their record to 7-8. In this article I will provide data from Pro Football Focus and takeaways from watching the film.
Let’s start with the offense:
PFF’s highest graded offensive player is quarterback Kenny Pickett (80.4), who went 26/39 (66.7%), for 244 yards, a great touchdown in his stellar pass to win the game to wide receiver George Pickens (71.1), along with an interception throwing right to a defender, something he had encouragingly not done since week eight, which was hopefully a lesson learned for the rookie signal caller on his throw right to the linebacker. Pickens ranks second for the week, catching all five of his targets for 57 yards and the aforementioned game winning touchdown. They are the only two players with grades above 70, concurring with an overall performance that left much to be desired overall. The only player with a below 50 grade was tight end Zach Gentry, really struggling as a run blocker, though he was put in tough situations having to deal with Raiders stellar pass rusher Maxx Crosby too often with expected struggles, along with catching his one target that went for a yard.
Pittsburgh’s offense came on for the first time at 6:38 in the first quarter with an early seven-point deficit, starting things off on the ground with Najee Harris, and luckily weren’t called for an offsides with tackle Chukwuma Okorafor getting an early start on the play, and the linebacker diagnosing and coming in clean to stand him up for a for a loss of one. On second and 11, Pickett’s first pass goes to wide receiver Steven Sims on the quick out, with ample space to run to the sideline for seven yards. Third and four now, and Pickett looks left with dual slants to that side, hitting wide receiver Diontae Johnson on the outside and makes a great hands catch and fights forward for 11 yards on the conversion, very encouraging early play design and YAC effort.
The following first down Pickett play actions, with running back Jaylen Warren providing solid pass protection, but seemingly good coverage as he looks downfield, eventually taking the throwaway with center Mason Cole losing his block late. On second and ten, it’s a run pass option with Pickett keeping it, looking for Johnson but Okorafor lost Crosby, who also got past guard James Daniels who attempted to help late, but able to elude and scramble, chased toward the sideline, and tosses it out of bounds for his second throwaway in a row. Third and ten now, and thankfully Crosby is tripped up by his own teammate on his twisting rush, with Daniels late to react again on what likely would have been a sack, and Pickett discouragingly takes the checkdown to Gentry in the flat one yard. Why not try and establish the run? Punt.
Back with 1:24 in the first quarter and a seven-point deficit still, Harris encouragingly kicked things off considering the last drive, providing a big chunk of 14 yards to the left side thanks to great collective blocks highlighted by tackle Dan Moore and a pulling cut block from tight end Connor Heyward. The following first down was to Harris again, this time a short gain of two yards, where Okorafor’s man nearly got to him forcing the outside bounce behind the line where he churned for the positive gain. On second and eight, Pickett threw a dangerous pass on an out route that was nearly undercut and picked, instead thankfully having enough zip on the ball to go for a nice catch and run down the sideline to Johnson for a gain of 15, lucky.
The drive continued to start the second quarter, and this was a Harris run for no gain with Dotson, Moore, and Daniels lost their blocks allowing a swarm to the ball for the tackle. On second and ten, Pickett enjoyed good collective pass pro and riffled another pass in to Johnson, who encouragingly got another chunk gain of 13 yards on the stop route, displaying his great separation ability that has been a constant this season.
Another first down here, and another good pass block rep from the o-line, where Cole lost but recovered by getting his man to the ground, with Pickett stepping up and ultimately scrambling for six yards. On second and four, running back Jaylen Warren got the handoff, and good overall blocking, but Okorafor couldn’t land on the second level on his combo block, with the linebacker tackling the two-yard gain. Third and two now, and Warren is dropped for a loss of two on a toss to the left with the linebacker knifing in between Okorafor (shifted to the run side) and Moore, and really disagree with the play call considering the situation and Las Vegas’ defense vulnerable to straight ahead runs as of late. Drive stalls near the red zone, and kicker Chris Boswell unfortunately misses the field goal and the deficit is still seven.
Returning at 9:39 with the scoreboard the same, Pickett play actions to Harris and then targets tight end Pat Freiermuth for the first time on the screen, getting a healthy eight yards behind good blocks from Gentry and wide receiver Miles Boykin out in front. On second and two, Harris gets the carry for another nice eight-yard gain through a big hole, with good blocks including an Okorafor seal and Sims block in front sans Daniels ending up on the ground. The following first down was another Harris run, this one for only a yard, where Crosby and Raiders defensive lineman Andrew Billings beat Gentry and Cole for the stop. On second and nine, Pittsburgh refreshingly stuck to their guns on the ground, this a healthier run of seven yards with a nice block from Daniels pancaking his man to the ground. Third and a short two now, and Pickett takes the shotgun snap and zings the pass to Pickens for his first target, catching the slant route for eight yards on the nice chain mover.
Continuing on first down, Harris provides a successful four-yard run getting through a sliver of space between Moore and Freiermuth, and noted a bit more space to the right. On second and six, Warren got his turn on the ground and provided a chunk of 13 yards on the ground, first breaking a tackle in the backfield (Daniels beat), enjoying a good seal block from Moore, and getting between great downfield blocks from Cole and Dotson on the impressive play.
First down was Warren again, this time Cole getting beat which forced the bounce out, and rare to see Pickens blocked back so aggressively through the defender missed the angle, finding a bit of space to the sideline with Johnson blocking out in front on the successful four yards. On second and six, Warren carried again, starting straight ahead then makes a great cut to get behind a solid Heyward pulling block, but unfortunately Freiermuth lacked initial effort on the edge and allowed his man to tackle the five-yard run. Third and one now, and fullback Derek Watt gets the call on the fullback dive that has been money this year, but it’s shut down for no gain with tight end Zach Gentry losing his block against Crosby once again. Seen enough of that matchup. Aggressive and enjoyable call to go for it on fourth and one, Pickett audibling with the call “Franco”, to take the sneak for two yards behind a good push of the pile for the conversion. Encouragingly leaning on the run game here for ten straight plays!
This long and encouraging second drive continued, going play action but Crosby is not fooled and darts towards Pickett, who does get the sidearm pass around him as he takes the hit, but the pass falls at Heyward’s feet incomplete. On second and ten, Pickett hits Freiermuth in the flat quickly, withstanding a big hit behind the line and nice job making this a positive gain of two yards, taking the clock down to the two-minute warning. Third and eight now, and Moore got beat by edge rusher Chandler Jones, which Pickett sensed and escaped right, surveying and finding Freiermuth who got wide open on the scramble drill and is uncharacteristically unable to make the catch, though the pass was high but certainly catchable, off his hands and thankfully not picked off on the deflection into the air. Unfortunately, a second straight drive that stalls just outside the red zone on three straight pass attempts, but making the field goal this time to cut the deficit to four.
The offense kicked off the second half with a seven-point deficit, thankfully finding Freiermuth quickly with the defender ripping around Cole and splitting between Daniels in route to Pickett, completing the out route and keeping his balance just enough to dive for the chain moving ten yards. First penalty of the game here, an offensive pass interference on Freiermuth out in front of a Warren screen setting Pittsburgh back to first and 20. Pickett is able to get the pass off despite some despite the tackles being pushed back, but a high pass targeting Johnson who ran an in route seemingly thinking he would get more depth on a post, tipped off his outstretched hand into the air that luckily falls incomplete instead of intercepted. On second and 20, Pickett gets a good chunk of yardage back to Freiermuth on the out route for 15 yards, with good separation and a bit of YAC as well. Third and five now, Pickett drops back for a good poise with both tackles getting beat inside for a great play to Pickens in a similar third and short situation to last week, getting the back shoulder throw to him, stopping on a dime to stay in bounds and provide YAC on the explosive 25-yard gain to keep the drive moving. Huge loss for the Raiders here, with edge rusher Chandler Jones injured on the play was ruled out for the game.
Following the two chunk plays, Harris got the carry but dropped for a loss of one with the Vegas linebackers shooting gaps and staying clean, with Raiders linebacker Denzel Perryman making the tackle. On second and nine, Pickett is intercepted by Perryman (who was ruled out for the game shortly after this play), going through his progressions and looking left into pressure allowed by Moore, contributing to a painful throw right to the defender as he was looking for Heyward on the vertical route. 6/7 plays on this drive where passes, not sure why Pittsburgh leaning so heavily one way or another in stretches. Ends a healthy streak of interception less passes for Pickett.
The offense quickly returned thanks to a quick answer on an immediate interception from the defense and the score the same, and once again come out passing, completing it to Harris on the running back screen, but dropped way behind the line for a loss of six, with Moore losing his block that allowed the tackle. On second and 16, the o-line provided good pass protection for Pickett, who found Pickens on the stop route near the sidelines, bottled up quickly on his YAC effort to no avail on the eight-yard gain. Third and a long eight now, and Pickett steps up, appearing set to run, but keeps his eyes downfield and finds Johnson over the middle from the slot, dodging the first would-be tackle but backtracking a yard in the process on the 14-yard gain and nice conversion.
Harris got the carry on the following first down, where Crosby made Freiermuth look silly on his block attempt, getting there and spinning Harris around but impressively is able to stay on his feet and work towards the sideline behind good Pickens blocks for a successful seven-yard gain, wow. Pittsburgh calls timeout here. On second and three, Harris gets another opportunity on the ground, but dropped for a loss of two with Billings beating Moore to the inside. Third and five now, and Pickett dumps it off to Harris, but refuses to go down without a fight, taking five Raiders to bring him down, but is only able to get a yard. Stalling outside the red zone again, and unconceivably Boswell misses his second field goal of the night. Jaw-dropping.
Returning at 4:40 thanks to a great second takeaway from the defense, and Pickett drops back on first down with Moore climbing the rusher past the pocket along with the rest of the line giving him some time, looking for Johnson over the middle on the post route with the pass a bit high and incomplete off his hands. Enjoying the higher rate of over the middle targets but lacking success. On second and ten, Pickett drops back, and gets a bit antsy feeling Moore being pushed back, noting he looked toward Freiermuth on his second read who was open, instead rolling right on the scramble drill and throwing it away for the third time of the game. Third and ten now, and this Pickett pass gets batted at the line, intended for Heyward over the middle. Offense can’t capitalize on the defenses turnover, three and out punt, and still baffled why we are ignoring run?!
This drive kicked off the fourth quarter with the deficit still seven and good field position with the Raiders punt going out of bounds. Pittsburgh started things off with a Harris run, cutting to the edge but Gentry allows the defensive back right past him to make the tackle for only one yard. On second and nine, Pickett stands tall in the pocket despite Moore being pushed back into him, and gets the dump off to Harris in the flat, and with one guy to beat showcases his spectacular hurdling skills, getting excellent YAC in the process on the gain of 17 yards.
The following first down was back to Harris on the ground, but Dotson is caught and flagged for a holding penalty, big shot in the foot after an encouraging play. On first and 20, Moore was pushed back once again, but Pickett still able to get the pass to a wide-open Johnson, who got great separation on a stop route for 11 yards. On second and a more manageable nine yards, Harris found some space on the carry between Daniels and Dotson, and behind Cole on the second level, picking up four yards on the run. Third and five now, and Pickett finds Warren who blocked, then leaked out for the safety valve pass, working upfield as Pickett scrambles due to late penetration between Daniels and Okorafor, finding the open area for the catch just short of the sticks, and good awareness to keep his momentum to going to pick up the first.
Nearing the red zone once again, Warren continued the drive on the ground this time, but only able to gain one yard with Crosby blowing up the running lane by blowing back Freiermuth on his block. On second and ten, Pickett senses the five-man blitz and gets it out quick to Warren on the dump off, but the pass is high and behind and falls incomplete. Big third and ten now needing to score, and Pickens gets the quick target tackled easily short of the sticks for only two yards, frustrating with Boswell struggling and the seven-point deficit, but Pittsburgh does capitalize here to cut the lead to four.
At 5:56 in the fourth quarter, Harris started the drive off with a successful four-yard carry, with good initial blocks sans a whiff by Heyward on Crosby and Daniel allowing his man to work off the block to get in on the tackle. On second and six, it’s right back to Harris for another four-yard gain, with a nice double team/combo block from Okorafor and Daniels, creating space up the middle before the latter ended up on the ground. Third and two now, and Pickett drops back and feels Crosby coming around the edge on Okorafor, stepping up and pumps at the last second seeing the defender ready to pounce at the last second, then tries to retrigger to Harris, but the short pass is broken up for the third down fail, which has been the theme in the game in which they’ve trailed in entirety.
2:55 left. Down by four. Season on the line. On first down, Pickett takes the short pass to Harris for six yards, and noted Sims open a bit further past the sticks. On second and four, Pickett surveys and escapes the pocket due to Dotson being late to see the looping defender allowing penetration, and with Crosby closing in is able to get off a great off script pass to Freiermuth, who found the soft spot in the zone and churns for 17 yards.
First down at the two-minute warning, and Freiermuth comes up big again with a ten yard catch on the sideline, bobbling it on the way down but able to secure it just in time before falling out of bounds, and after the nail-biting official review the play stands. Sweating. Another first down in clutch time, and Pickett targets Harris short with 1:43 on the clock, but the pass sails high, and thankfully he gets a hand on what would have like been an interception and season ending play. Holy moly. On second and ten, Harris gets the short target over the middle, and provides incredible yards after contact to pick up 19 yards, what an effort!
Encouragingly another first down here, and it’s Harris once again, this time for five yards and gets out of bounds with 1:05 left and the Steelers are now in the red zone, do or die time. On second and five, Pickett stands tall with Moore allowing pressure around the edge, and gets the swing pass to Harris, going through his hands and originally ruled a catch, but upon review was overturned, which seemed obvious and turns out for the better considering it would have gone for a loss of two. Third and five now, and picked goes back to Freiermuth who has been great this season on the money down, making a great catch on the low pass in the flat, but going down to get it causes him to lose his footing, tripping up just short of the sticks on the four-yard gain.
Pittsburgh takes their second timeout with 55 seconds left with a ginormous fourth and one at hand, and Pittsburgh calls on Pickett as expected on the quarterback sneak, initially looking like he was stopped short, but a great second effort and push of the pile picks up the huge conversion on the sneak! Final timeout. Fresh set of downs. 14-yard line. 50 seconds left. Pickett takes the shotgun snap, making a quick decision to target Pickens over the middle on a slant, dropping a dime in between two defenders in the end zone for touchdown! What a clutch play. Unbelievable!!!
Equally remarkable was the defenses huge third interception that ensued, allowing Harris to get the clock moving on the run for no gain. Following the Raiders first timeout, Heyward got the call on the jet sweep, catching the Raiders off guard and officially calling game with an impressive explosive 21-yard gain, what a rollercoaster…wow!
Now for the defense:
PFF’s highest graded defender was expectedly defensive lineman Cameron Heyward (90.2) that included a team high six pressures, two sacks, three tackles for loss, along with a batted pass in his monstrous performance. Two other players have grades of 70+ at lower snap counts, including defensive lineman Montravius Adams (73.6) with all of his tackles going for stops on his 16 snaps, along with safety Elijah Riley (70) who had ten opportunities. Three players below fifty in the grades, starting with edge rusher Alex Highsmith (48.6). He was the only other player besides Heyward to provide a sack, but particularly struggling in coverage along with a missed tackle, though he did provide some key plays down the line highlighted by the aforementioned sack that came on third down late in the third quarter. Defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal (39.3) and Isaiahh Loudermilk (28.8) bottom the this this week, with the latter struggling in run defense in particular as did Leal, but had some good moments such as blowing a tight end block backwards to cut off a run that was stopped behind the line.
Pittsburgh’s defense came on first to start the game, expectedly a carry from Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, who was able to get four yards with the front collectively pushed back sans defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi winning inside and working down the line to make the tackle. On second and six, it was back to Jacobs again, this run going for a chain moving seven yards where was double teamed and pushed back, Ogunjobi was sealed, along with second level blocks on linebackers Devin Bush and Robert Spillane, and cornerback Arthur Maulet and Spillane combining to make the tackle.
Back to Jacobs on the ensuing first down, and the defense limits him to two yards where Heyward got a good push to force a cut inside, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick missing a tackle on the spin move, but Adams there for the tackle despite his lineman staying engaged. On second and eight, Vegas tight end Foster Moreau caught their first pass of the game getting wide open short over the middle in front of Pittsburgh’s zone coverage, and was able to churn for ten yards through safety Damontae Kazee tackle.
Running on first down once again, Pittsburgh did a good job filling the designed run lane including linebacker Myles Jack taking on the blocker in the hole, but Jacobs showcased his great vision to find the cutback lane where Loudermilk lost contain, leading to a chunk 11 yard run in his strong start to the game, with Kazee and cornerback Cameron Sutton combining for the tackle. Vegas went with a backup rusher here, and Spillane did a good job reading, shooting into the hole, slipping past before the center could get to him on the run stop for no gain. On second and ten, Heyward provided a dominant push prompting the scramble, where defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal lost the edge, and Carr pumps toward the middle giving himself space along the sideline, and holding edge rusher T.J. Watt on his deep zone, but did him out of bounds on the nine-yard gain. Third and one now, and it’s Carr on the sneak, and Heyward does a good job splitting the center and guard, but the second effort gets him just enough for a conversion as Spillane combined for the tackle.
The following first down was back to Jacobs on the ground, getting a run stop here with good collective run fills, and Spillane tackling the gain of two on the cutback attempt. On second and ten, the entire pass rush won mightily, with Heyward the beneficiary on the sack, attacking the weakness of the Raiders offensive line and driving the guard off his feet, taking advantage in the interior early and often as I was hoping for in my game outlook. Third and an ideal 16 now for the defense, Watt provided a good rush around the edge, but Carr found his running back on the dump off over the middle, where cornerback Cameron Sutton and Fitzpatrick were unable to get off of downfield blocks, leading to big YAC and churn through cornerback Levi Wallace and safety Tre Norwood combined tackle for another conversion on third and a mile, which allowed the Raiders in the red zone. Ouch.
Wide receiver Davante Adams got his first target as the drive continued, but Carr’s pass sails over his head with Wallace in coverage. On second and ten, it’s right back to Adams, this time connecting on the crosser against zone, with Pittsburgh rallying to corral him for only three yards, and Spillane making another tackle (in on five already). Third and seven now from the 14-yard line, and Watt stays on his feet despite the cut block attempt getting pressure, but can’t quite get there on the nice throw and catch on the out route by wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, with Sutton right there with good coverage but gambles unsuccessfully on the attempted pass breakup, then Norwood tried to cutoff his YAC but gets juked to the inside, allowing the opening drive touchdown catch. Third downs loom large, allowing three key conversions and the touchdown, discouraging start and down seven early.
Back with 3:40 in the first quarter and the scoreboard the same, Vegas tight end Darren Waller got free off on the crosser of play action, understandably sucking up the linebackers and holding Fitzpatrick for a chunk 11-yard gain where Kazee made a solid hit for the tackle. The following first down was back to Jacobs on the ground, and great push from Heyward and Leal, with the latter blowing Moreau back into the outside running lane, turning the run back inside where Ogunjobi stayed on his feet on the linemans cut block attempt and pursed hard drop the play for a loss of three. On second and 13, Jacobs got involved as a receiver off play action, with Carr dumping it off due to Heyward splitting two lineman and wreaking havoc in the backfield once again, with the catch and bit of YAC gaining six yards before Adams made the tackle. Third and seven now, and an encouraging three and out here with Heyward stepping up with another huge play on the batted pass to stifle the drive. Incredible start for him, Vegas forced to punt.
At 11:48 Watt, Heyward, and cornerback Arthur Maulet got a good push off the line, as Carr play actions to Jacobs and then to Adams on the reverse, targeting the latter right away on the swing pass with Watt closing in, able to make the grab and stutter step past Spillane and get down the sideline for 12 yards before Kazee could get him out of bounds for yet another tackle. The following first down was an outstanding run stop for a loss of four, with Heyward again getting to the backfield showing out with another big play despite a double team, along with Spillane combining for the tackle. On second and 14, Carr wants Adams on the screen but covered by Sutton, then targeting the deep receiver, going incomplete with the two not on the same page and cornerback James Pierre in coverage. Third and 14 now, and Carr scrambles for four yards, getting between Ogunjobi and Heyward up the middle, along with Watt recognizing and peeling off his block well to pursue, and Spillane making a good tackle.
With 1:49 left until halftime, plenty of rest from the offenses ten minute drive, and down by four now, Maulet came on the blitz but was stood up by Jacobs in pass pro, allowing Carr to find Moreau wide open on the short leak out pass, able to get nine yards with Pittsburgh’s off coverage given the situation, and taking a group effort to stand him up with Spillane there first and credited with the tackle. On second and one, Jacobs gets ten on the carry showing good vision to hit the vacant hole, with Fitzpatrick aggressively guessing and Bush flat-footed as he takes advantage, then showcases strong leg drive through the latter and Maulet who collided, and Spillane and Sutton finally combining for tackle.
The drive continued with an incompletion to Renfrow, where Ogunjobi in particular got a great push along with Watt, with the pass just out of his reach on a leaping effort, with good tight trail coverage from Sutton. On second and ten, Carr wants Adams on the go ball but overthrows him, another incompletion from the duo with Pierre coverage. Third and a long ten now with 32 seconds, but unfortunately the defense can’t get off the field, with no pass rush giving Carr all day to find Waller, who made a great explosive catch for 34 yards, getting past Pittsburgh’s coverage with Fitzpatrick and safety Tre Norwood each getting there a tick late and combining for the tackle. Another third and long conversion given up. Ugh.
Following Vegas’ second timeout, it’s another Adams target with all day to throw, this one making the grab on the sideline but unable to get his second foot inbounds as Sutton had tight coverage and pressured the catch. On second and ten, defensive lineman Tyson Alualu got pressure on an inside twist, likely affecting his accuracy on the high throw, leaping and overthrown again, partially thanks to a bump from Sutton on the open target that goes for another incompletion, encouragingly limiting him in the first half. Pittsburgh takes their first timeout here with 14 seconds left. On this big third and ten Carr targets Waller over the middle in the back of the end zone, and the defense stands tall for the third incompletion in a row (another overthrow), with three defenders there on the big play to hold the Raiders to a field goal and shut them down near the red zone, deficit is back to seven.
The defense returned at 11:48 in the third quarter following a Pickett interception, and clutchly answers back with one of their own on a high target by Carr, going off of Moreau’s hands straight in the air and cornerback Arthur Maulet the beneficiary in trail coverage, coming up with the huge play and answer and get the offense the ball right back. Crazy.
Pittsburgh’s defense returned at 7:17 trailing by seven still following Boswell’s unconceivable second missed field goal, and it’s yet another incompletion to Adams, this one thanks to a great batted pass from Watt. On second and ten, Carr finds Renfrow for eight yards, where Watt gets a good push on his pass rush but is doubled as he tries to work inside, and Sutton making the tackle but allowed separation on the pivot route and a bit of YAC in the process. Third and two now, and it’s right back to Renfrow with plenty to move the chains on the nine-yard gain, with Heyward providing a strong pass rush along with Ogunjobi in pursuit of Carr in the scramble drill, before Watt could make the tackle.
The Raiders were penalized for a false start here on Waller, setting up first and 15. The Raiders still got it to Jacobs here, able to gain three yards, where safety Elijah Riley and Alualu combined for the tackle. On second and 12, Carr wants Renfrow over the middle and the pass is off his hands, going up in the air and Minkah able to get the interception! Huge second takeaway to help the struggles on offense and special teams.
With 4:13 left in the third quarter and the same score, Jacobs got the nod with the carry, and Watt did an excellent job winning the edge immediately and dropping him for the tackle for a loss of three. On second and 13, Vegas tried again and Jacobs gets four yards this time, getting around Heyward’s penetration in the backfield and behind his fullback who landed a block on Bush, with Malik Reed and Spillane taking on blocks and working to the ball on the combined tackle. Third and a long nine now, and unfortunately Renfrow beat Fitzpatrick on a great slant route, getting a step for the catch and run of 11 yards with Wallace making the tackle.
Jacobs busts off an explosive 23 yard run here, and thankfully it’s negated by a 15-yard personal foul facemask penalty on Vegas (Moreau), a huge swing in yardage setting up first and 25. Watt got a good push getting in Carr’s face on the pass, going back to Waller on the short target that’s tackled soundly by Bush for four yards. On second and 21, it’s right back to Waller on the stick route, with Bush and Wallace tackling him quickly on the nine-yard gain. Ideal third and a long 12 for the Steelers defense here, and Heyward takes on the double team, freeing up Highsmith who comes free twisting inside and tees off for a huge situational sack, stepping up in key moments as he’s done fantastically as of late. Great game from the defense!
Returning at 9:42 in the fourth quarter and the lead cut to four, this first down is a handoff to Jacobs for four yards where Heyward worked off his block and pursued the ball well, along with Ogunjobi combining on the tackle. On second and six, Carr easily got it to wide receiver Mack Hollins got his first catch on the comeback route against the Steelers zone, and with space able to dive past the chains to get seven yards where Spillane touched him down on the conversion.
Another first down run from Vegas here, where Jacobs was limited to two yards thanks to a combined run stop from Adams who worked through the blocker and Spillane getting in the hole for the tackle. On second and eight, Pittsburgh brings Fitzpatrick on the blitz off the edge, catching Carr off-guard on the drop back, pumping and able to spin away as he leaps, and Heyward makes his presence known again, pushing his man back and bringing him down quickly before he can regather for his second sack of the game. This set up a great third and 18 situation for the defense, where Watt won the edge prompting Carr to step up, who’s able to get the dump off pass to the running back with Fitzpatrick and Riley coming up to tackle the ten-yard gain well short of the sticks. Huge Heyward sack forces the punt, awesome job. Limiting Las Vegas to a short drive here.
Big drive here, with the defense coming back with 4:32 left in the game and still down by four, and the Raiders keep running through Jacobs as expected, unfortunately able to get five yards on the toss where the second level was blocked up, particularly Jack pushed back, with Ogunjobi and Heyward working through the trash well and combine for the tackle. On second and five, Heyward made another fantastic play, winning with hand use to get past his man to make the run stop on Jacobs for no gain. Huge third and five now, and both Watt and Heyward are double teamed yet still provide an excellent push, and Carr targets Adams down the sideline, sailing out of bounds with Pierre plastering in coverage, and thankfully their normal great connection is lacking again on the ginormous three and out. Can’t say enough about how well the defense has played.
The Steelers defense comes on needing to provide another stand with the offense finally getting to the red zone and scoring their only touchdown, at just the right time for the first lead of the game at three points. Adams nearly made a tough catch on the sideline on first down, but Wallace was there to pressure the catch out of bounds for the incompletion. What a great job by Pittsburgh limiting his impact. On second and ten, the defense answered the bell, with Sutton tracking the overthrown target to Renfrow, extending out and sending us into euphoria with the huge THIRD interception of Carr, ball game! Amazing clutch performance leading to the crucial victory, and both sides of the ball having ice in their veins in the clutch. Wow.
Let’s look at special teams:
PFF’s highest graded player this week was long snapper Christian Kuntz (82.2), who had a better performance in this game compared to last week, along with a tackle on punt coverage. Marcus Allen (77.4) provided very good things with a tackle and two assists last week. Spillane is the third and final special teamer with a +70 grade (73.3). Three players also below 50 this game, Benny Snell (49.6), Connor Heyward (48.1 with one tackle but also a missed one), and Boswell (41.7) as expected, going only 2/4 on field goals.
Boswell kicked off to start the game, a short one traveling to only the 16-yard line, and the returner making a last second cut outside, and good job by Connor Heyward to get off the block and tackle his at the 28-yard line. Pressley Harvin’s first punt was a 39 yarder, going to the 18 where it was downed by Pierre. Boswell’s second attempt came at 11:52 in the second quarter, surprisingly missing the 43-yard field goal to the left which kept the goose egg on the scoreboard. Boswell’s second opportunity came at 1:52, capping the second drive connecting from 44 yards out to cut the deficit to four. Short pooch kickoff from the Raiders just before halftime to the 25-yard line, where Benny Snell fielded it and returned it 15 yards.
Boswell excruciatingly also missed his third opportunity at 7:20 in the third quarter from 52 yards out, hooking it even wider to the left than the first miss. Jaw-dropping. Harvin had a booming 55-yard punt at 4:20 in the third quarter, traveling to the 16-yard line, and returned to the 29 where long snapper Christian Kuntz made the tackle. Boswell was able to make his fourth attempt, a 40 yarder with 9:53 left in the game to cut the deficit to four. His following kickoff traveled to the six-yard line, returning it to the 28 where Connor Heyward missing a tackle opportunity, then Riley and Marcus Allen combined for the tackle. Sims’ first returnable punt came with 6:06 left if the game, fielding it at his own 12-yard line and only able get nine yards on the return. Harvin punted with 4:40 left in the game, a 46-yarder traveling to the 24-yard line where it went out of bounds. Boswell kicked off following the amazing late go-ahead touchdown, traveling only to the 14-yard line and the return getting out to the 29 where Marcus Allen made the tackle.
STEELERS VS. RAIDERS WEEK 15 SNAPS & REGULAR SEASON TOTAL SNAPS:
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