5 Steelers surprises in Sunday’s win against the Raiders

Each week our SCU staff and contributors picks the “surprises” from the Pittsburgh Steelers latest matchup. Check out more below to see which plays and situations surprised us the most!

On Sunday night the Pittsburgh Steelers traveled to Las Vegas for their Week 2 matchup at Allegiant Stadium against the Raiders.

The Steelers improved to a 2-1 record with a 23-18 victory. Here are some of the surprises from that game.

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Pickett’s Touchdowns

After a poor start to his season over the first two weeks, Steelers second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett rebounded with a solid game against the Raiders.

Pickett would find WR Calvin Austin on a 72-yard connection for the first of two touchdown throws, then locate TE Pat Freiermuth for what would be the deciding score on a 13-yard pass play.

This would be Pickett’s first multiple touchdown game as a pro, finishing the evening with a 108.5 QB rating on 28 pass attempts for 235 yards.

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Play Action Passes

One of the reasons Pickett was successful in the pass game Sunday night was an introduction to play action passes that had been all but absent in the Steelers play calls for the last two seasons.

Despite some struggles early, the offense leaned on running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren to setup the ground game. Compared to 28 pass attempts, the Steelers would run the ball 31 times, with – get this – 28 of those as designed runs. (The other three were by Pickett, with two of those as QB scrambles.)

In total the Steelers outgained the Raiders 105 to 69 despite Las Vegas having last year’s rushing leader Josh Jacobs.

The plan worked to fruition in multiple areas where the team was able to exploit open receivers, including the aforementioned Freiermuth touchdown, by faking the run and rolling Pickett out. It finally gave the team a rhythm in which they were able to control most of the game by maintaining a lead. (Now just imagine if the running game gets going too!)

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T.J. Watt

What else can be said of the league’s sack leader? Watt finished this game by adding two more sacks to his six on the season, including three quarterback hits and two tackles for loss.

Watt was also responsible for the pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo’s interception by Levi Wallace. Both sacks also led to Las Vegas going three-and-out on those respective drives.

If you were wondering what the Steelers were missing in 2022, then look no further than the NFL’s early candidate to win (another) Defensive Player of the Year award.

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Pressley Harvin III

I have to make a public apology to Harvin, who I had been extremely hard on to start the season. Punting is a week-to-week job sometimes in the NFL and patience for prime field position is at a premium. That leaves most punters jobless when they are inconsistent.

Harvin had a rough Week 1 after winning out the job over Braden Mann – who actually earned a spot on the Steelers 53-man roster, leaving some to speculate Harvin (or Mann) were trade targets by other teams.

Mike Tomlin and Danny Smith also brought in veteran punter Brad Wing for a tryout last week. Wing, who played with the Steelers in 2014 and then was traded to the Giants, has stayed active in the XFL this spring and sent a clear message that Harvin had to perform or he would be gone.

Harvin nailed punts of 57, 59, 47, 63, 41, and 56 yards on Sunday, with three of those kicks landing within the opponents 20-yard line. It was a borderline elite performance (Harvin slipped on the 41-yard punt) that aided the Steelers defense and the overall team victory.

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Road win at Raiders

They don’t play against the Raiders often, and in fact, this was the first time the two teams squared off in Las Vegas. However, no matter the location, the Raiders usually have the Steelers number when playing them at home. (Well, it felt like a home game with the number of Steelers fans in attendance anyway!)

Until Sunday night, the Steelers hadn’t won a road game traveling to the Raiders since December 10th, 1995! They had lost their previous four matchups (2006, 2012, 2013, 2018) which were all played in Oakland.

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