Kenny Pickett passes for 2 touchdowns as Pittsburgh Steelers top Las Vegas Raiders 23-18
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Even picking up first downs was a challenge for Pittsburgh’s offense in the first two games, so much so that fans loudly chanted for a change in the offensive coordinator.
All is not settled after the Steelers’ 23-18 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday night, but Kenny Pickett said it was something to build upon after he passed for 235 yards and two touchdowns.
The Steelers had 333 yards and 17 first downs, fairly pedestrian by modern NFL standards, but Pittsburgh totaled just 494 yards and 24 first downs through its first two games.
“I think we’re on track to getting (the offensive mojo) back,” Pickett said. “There’s never a perfect game. There are things we wished we had back, and that’s always going to be the case, but I think we’re definitely heading towards that stuff we need to have back.”
In the first meeting between the franchises in Las Vegas, the Steelers earned their first road win against the Raiders since 1995, though it didn’t feel much like an away game with about half the crowd waving Terrible Towels.
“To have a team on the silent count in their own stadium is pretty demoralizing,” said Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who had two sacks. “It also helps the pass rush so much more. I’m very appreciative of everybody that came out tonight.”
Las Vegas trailed 23-7 going into the fourth quarter. It had a chance to tie the game in the final minutes, but coach Josh McDaniels settled for a short field goal instead of trying to convert a fourth-and-4 at the 8.
Pittsburgh (2-1) struggled offensively in its first two games, but it looked much better against Las Vegas (1-2). Pickett completed 16 of 28 passes, and George Pickens finished with four receptions for 75 yards.
“(Pickett) made the necessary plays,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “I thought he was good in the environment. I thought he was a good communicator. He did the job tonight.”
Watt had another sensational game, recording half of Pittsburgh’s four sacks less than a week after returning a fumble for the winning touchdown on Monday night against the Cleveland Browns. The Raiders were the only team that hadn’t allowed a sack through the first two weeks.
Chris Boswell made three field goals for the Steelers, including one from 57 yards. His longest is a 59-yarder against the Dallas Cowboys three years ago.
Las Vegas was hurt by three more interceptions for Jimmy Garoppolo, running his total to an NFL-high six on the season. Garoppolo was evaluated for a concussion after the game.
“Those are plays obviously we don’t want to make,” McDaniels said. “Jimmy makes a lot of good plays, but obviously when the quarterback holds the ball, he holds the fortune of our team also in his hands when he’s doing those things. … A big key obviously was for us to take care of the ball. We didn’t do a good enough job of that tonight.”
Garoppolo was 28 for 44 for 324 yards and two touchdowns, both to Davante Adams in another impressive performance for the receiver. Adams finished with 13 receptions for 172 yards.
The NFL’s reigning rushing champion, Josh Jacobs, had nowhere to run once again. He finished with 62 yards on 17 carries for the Raiders, giving him just 106 yards through three games.
Not that the Steelers’ rushing attack has been much better, but Najee Harris did gain 65 yards on 19 rushes. He entered the game with just 74 yards.
Both teams came out with long touchdown passes. Garoppolo converted a fourth-and-1 with a 32-yard pass to Adams, and Pickett launched a 72-yarder to Calvin Austin.
The Steelers grabbed control late in the third quarter. Trailing 16-7, the Raiders drove to Pittsburgh’s 48-yard line. Garoppolo dropped back and had plenty of time, but couldn’t find an open receiver. He lobbed a pass into double coverage that was intercepted by Patrick Peterson.
The Steelers then drove 81 yards on six plays, with Pickett completing a 13-yard pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth for a 23-7 lead with 3:56 left in the third.
But Las Vegas closed to 23-15 with 5:41 left in the game. Garoppolo completed a 1-yard TD pass to Adams, and then found tight end Michael Mayer for the 2-point conversion.
Daniel Carlson made a 26-yard field goal with 2:22 remaining to make it 23-18, giving him more than 600 career points.
Raiders linebacker Curtis Bolton injured a knee. For the Steelers, Harris and cornerback Levi Wallace went out briefly with injuries but returned.
Steelers: Visit the Houston Texans on Sunday.
Raiders: Visit the AFC West rival Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
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