4 Steelers surprises from Sunday’s loss to the Las Vegas Raiders

The Pittsburgh Steelers dropped their first loss of the 2021 regular season with a 26-17 defeat at the hands of the Las Vegas Raiders.

This week’s surprises mostly center around disappoint – and there was plenty to go around. Let’s have a look at Week 2’s Steelers surprises.

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Injuries

The optimistic outlook for the Steelers on Sunday was based on the Raiders having a number of key injuries in their lineup.

Instead, that outlook started to look bleaker as the day wore on, with several key injuries hurting the Steelers – especially on defense.

Showing up on the inactives list prior to the game were starters Joe Haden and Devin Bush. For those who remember, the Steelers had enough issues playing defense with Bush, and his predecessor Ryan Shazier, out of the lineup.

The problems were compounded when Tyson Alualu was hurt on the fourth defensive play on the game – a fractured ankle which will see him miss time, if not the remainder of the season.

The biggest loss was T.J. Watt. Having arguably a top three defensive player in the entire league sidelined did Pittsburgh no favors. Having him missing in action alongside three other starters was crippling, as the Steelers vaunted defense turned into a preseason mirror image, subbing in players such as James Pierre, Justin Layne, Jamir Jones, and Isaiah Buggs.

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Minkah Fitzpatrick beat on game-deciding score

Chalk this one up in the “you won’t see this happen often” column.

Fitzpatrick was caught flat-footed on the Derek Carr to Henry Ruggs 61-yard touchdown pass – a play which ultimately sealed the deal for a Las Vegas win.

The Steelers were down only two points at this juncture, and despite being depleted, forced the Raiders into a 3rd-and-10 situation; only to see Carr heave a pass downfield and see Ruggs run behind the Steelers defense, and get under it, for a 23-14 edge with just under ten minutes remaining in the game.

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Boswell 56-yard field goal

It has been said that Mike Tomlin doe not live in his fears.

Allowing Boswell to attempt the longest field goal ever in Heinz Field history exemplifies that.

Boswell nailing the record kick was a surprise, as almost all kickers struggle with any attempts over 50 yards within the Steelers home field.

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Tomlin not going on it 4th-and-1

Unfortunately, Tomlin’s quote didn’t apply to this situation, as he lived in his fears on 4th-and-1 on the next series following the Ruggs touchdown.

On 3rd-and-6, Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth was stopped one yard short of the first down marker. Ben Roethlisberger lobbied to remain on the field, down by six points, and go for it from their own 34-yard line.

Instead, Tomlin opted to punt with 8:36 remaining in the game.

While the Steelers would get the ball back five plays later, the clock wound from 8:36 to 5:51 – crucial time for a comeback.

The decision looked cowardly and didn’t move the needle much for the Steelers, who would start the next possession on their 32: two yards shorter than the previous drive ended.

Perhaps Tomlin was looking for a defensive spark – a splash play or scoop and score – but that didn’t materialize. Instead, the offense was further handicapped and the most they could muster was Boswell’s record field goal the rest of the game.

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