By Ray Porter Jr.
LAS VEGAS, NV–For the first time in team history, the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Las Vegas Raiders in what is labeled ‘The City that never sleeps’ and their first trip to Allegiant Stadium proved to be a successful one as the Steelers prevailed 23-18 in from the Raiders faithful and thousands of Terrible Towels waving Steelers fans.
“A really good, tough, hard-fought victory in all three phases. It’s good to stack victories,” said Steeler head coach Mike Tomlin. “We got to make winning a habitual thing, and to just stack winning performance on top of winning performance is significant.”
For the first time in this young NFL season, the Steelers’ offense led the way to victory as QB Kenny Pickett 16/28, 235 yards) passed for 2 TDs, one to WR Calvin Austin III on a 72-yard score and the other to TE Pat Freiermuth on a 13-yarder. K Chris Boswell also added 3 field goals, including a 57-yarder.
“He made the necessary plays. I thought he was good in the environment. I thought he was a good communicator. He did the job tonight,” Tomlin said about his QB.
The 23 points were just enough to beat the Raiders as mounted a comeback by scoring 11 points in the 4th quarter after trailing 23-7. But the Steelers defense held them off when CB Levi Wallace intercepted Raiders QB Jimmy Garoppolo with 12 seconds left in the game. Wallace would also intercept Garoppolo (28/44, 324 yards 2TDs, 3 INT) in the 2nd quarter as well. Garoppolo’s 3rd interception of the night went to Steelers veteran CB Patrick Peterson.
“They made the necessary plays. They were competitive. Obviously, I can’t say enough about [Davante] Adams (13 rec, 172 yards, 2 TDs) and his talents and their willingness and ability to get him the ball. It was a challenge tonight.” Said Tomlin about his Secondary.
The Steelers pass-rushers sacked Garoppolo 4 times, led by NFL sacks-leader TJ Watt’s 2. Veteran LB Markus Golden and rookie DE Keeanu Benton added a sack apiece. When asked about the performance of his defense, Tomlin replied, “We could use a few more. I was really disappointed in that fourth down and one touchdown, but there are going to be things that disappoint us in play, certainly.”
The 2-1 Steelers will now prepare for the 1-2 Houston Texans, who pulled off a huge upset of the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. They know not to take any opponent for granted and will continue to win while growing as a team. “There are opportunities for growth, obviously, but I was really proud of the efforts and the playmaking. We did what we needed to do to secure a victory. It’s still very early stages of the year. We have a lot to learn and a lot to teach, but it’s good to do so with the victory,” said Tomlin.
Notes: The Steeler played against former LB Robert Spillane, who left the Steelers to join the Raiders via Free Agency: “It still takes time to reflect on it, and adrenaline is high. I got a lot of respect for those guys starting at the top of the organization and all the way down. Love Coach Tomlin, love Minkah [Fitzpatrick], those are some of the closest relationships I’ve formed on the football field over the years, so I’m thankful for my time there, and we just got to get things cleaned up and keep pushing forward.”
Tomlin also addressed the injuries, “We had some bumps and bruises associated with play. Levi Wallace went out of the game, Najee [Harris] went out of the game. Both guys were able to return, and I’m sure we’ll have some other bumps and bruises to assess. I’ll give you guys an update on Tuesday.”
The Steelers team charter plane was unexpectedly diverted to Kansas City early Monday morning following their game vs. Las Vegas. Everyone on the plane is safe, and they are making necessary plans to arrive back in Pittsburgh later in the day.
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