Raiders now 2-0 with upset win at Pittsburgh; Carr throws for 382 yards

Raiders

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) pressures Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jon Gruden’s long, arduous multi-state, multi-year rebuilding project may finally be nearing its end.

The swagger might be back for the Las Vegas Raiders. The deep ball certainly is.

Derek Carr threw for 382 yards and two touchdowns, including a pretty 61-yard strike to Henry Ruggs midway through the fourth quarter, as the Raiders toppled Pittsburgh 26-17 on Sunday.

Not bad for a team playing on a short week on the other side of the country without its starting running back and any sort of offensive balance. It didn’t matter, particularly once the Steelers lost star outside linebacker T.J. Watt to a groin injury in the second quarter.

“Honestly, anytime (Watt) is on the field he wrecks everything,” Carr said, later adding, “When he’s out of the game you notice he’s out but that doesn’t mean that we can do this or we can do that. We run our stuff in Las Vegas and have full confidence in our guys.”

It certainly looked like it.

Carr shredded the Pittsburgh secondary in Watt’s absence, completing 16 of 21 for 263 yards in the second half, including a 9-yard flip to Foster Moreau in the third quarter and a rainbow to Ruggs with 9:35 remaining that gave the Las Vegas defense all the cushion it would need.

“You just see this gear that not a lot of human beings have,” Carr said of Ruggs. “It makes it fun for me.”

Ben Roethlisberger passed for 295 yards, including a 25-yard catch-and-run early in the fourth quarter that rookie running back Najee Harris turned into the first touchdown of his career that drew the Steelers within 16-14.

The Raiders (2-0) responded immediately. Facing third-and-10 on Las Vegas’ next possession, Carr had plenty of time to step up and heave it to a streaking Ruggs, who raced past Pittsburgh’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ahkello Witherspoon and into the end zone as the Raiders beat the Steelers for the sixth time in their last eight meetings.

“Not many guys can run that fast and track the ball,” Gruden said of Ruggs. “It was certainly a big play. The protection, the revolving door we had up front in the critical moment and the throw … there was a lot of good stuff to go around.”

Ruggs finished with five receptions for 113 yards, one of four Raiders with five grabs as Carr spread it around.

“We’re loaded with playmakers,” Ruggs said. “We have guys ready to step up at any time.”

The Steelers held Las Vegas tight end Darren Waller relatively in check until it mattered. Waller’s 25-yard reception with just over 2 minutes to go set up Daniel Carlson’s fourth field goal that provided the final margin, sending the first full crowd at Heinz Field in nearly 21 months trudging toward the exit.

“I’m not going to say London Bridge is falling down, but we’ve got to grow from this,” Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward said. “We’ve got to keep harping on our mistakes and understand how big those (get off) plays are.”

A week after pulling off a stunner in Buffalo in the opener, Pittsburgh got off to another slow start.

This time, there would be no second-half surge.

Harris again found little room to run behind Pittsburgh’s retooled offensive line, managing just 39 yards on 10 carries. The first-round pick added five receptions for 43 yards, including an acrobatic stretch across the goal line for his first touchdown as a pro.

Still, the offense operated in only fits and starts. Roethlisberger completed 27 of 40 passes and absorbed 10 hits and two sacks while playing behind an offensive line featuring two rookies in left tackle Dan Moore Jr. and center Kendrick Green.

“Right now my play is just not good enough,” Roethlisberger said. “If I play better, we have a chance to win the football game.”

The offense’s inability to control the ball forced the Steelers’ suddenly injury-ravaged defense had to be on the field for long stretches. The Raiders held the ball for more than 34 minutes and had 286 of their 425 yards after halftime.

TURNER EJECTED

Steelers veteran right guard Trai Turner was ejected in the fourth quarter following an altercation with the Raiders defensive tackle Solomon Thomas. Video seemed to indicate Turner spit on Thomas, leading to referees to toss him from the rest of the game.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin believes Turner was simply reacting to being spat on.

“Trai is not a young guy,” Tomlin said. “He’s not overly emotional. He’s a flat-liner … I didn’t believe he did enough to be kicked out of the football game. That’s just my opinion.”

INJURIES

Raiders: Rookie LT Alex Leatherwood left in the second quarter with an oblique injury and did not return. … S Dallin Leavitt was evaluated for a concussion. … CB Casey Hayward Jr. dealt with cramps.

Steelers: DT Tyson Alualu left in the first quarter with a fractured right ankle and will be out indefinitely. … WR Diontae Johnson sustained a knee injury on the game’s final play. … CB Joe Haden and LB Devin Bush were inactive due to groin injuries.

UP NEXT

Raiders: Host Miami next Sunday. Las Vegas is 0-2 against the Dolphins since Gruden returned as coach in 2018, including a 26-25 setback last December.

Steelers: Open AFC North play next Sunday when Cincinnati visits Heinz Field. Pittsburgh has won 14 of 16 against the Bengals.

This is the pregame story

LAS VEGAS (1-0) at PITTSBURGH (1-0)

Sunday, 10 a.m. PDT, CBS – 8NewsNow

OPENING LINE: Steelers by 5 1/2, according to FanDuel SportsBook

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Las Vegas 1-0; Pittsburgh 1-0

SERIES RECORD: Raiders lead 16-13

LAST MEETING: Raiders beat Steelers 24-21 on Dec. 9, 2018 in Oakland

LAST WEEK: Raiders beat Ravens 33-27 in overtime; Steelers beat Bills 23-16

RAIDERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (1), RUSH (21), PASS (1), SCORING (6T).

RAIDERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (21), RUSH (32), PASS (10), SCORING (17T).

STEELERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (29T), RUSH (23), PASS (28), SCORING (18).

STEELERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (13), RUSH (18), PASS (14), SCORING (7T).

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Raiders plus-1; Steelers plus-1.

RAIDERS PLAYER TO WATCH: DE Maxx Crosby. Crosby had a dominant opener with two sacks, five quarterback hits and a league-high 13 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.

STEELERS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Najee Harris. The rookie first-round pick had a quiet 45 yards on 16 carries in his NFL debut behind a patched-together offensive line. He also was on the field for every offensive snap, an indication of how the Steelers feel about his conditioning.

KEY MATCHUP: Pittsburgh’s secondary against Raiders TE Darren Waller. Las Vegas QB targeted the 6-foot-6 Waller 19 times in the opener against the Ravens. The Steelers will need to throw two bodies — and who knows, maybe three — in an effort to slow him down.

KEY INJURIES: The Raiders will be without starting RB Josh Jacobs with injuries to his toe and ankle. … Las Vegas will also be down two starting OL with RG Denzelle Good (knee) going on IR and LG Richie Incognito (calf) missing a second straight game. … DT Gerald McCoy (knee) also went on IR and backup QB Marcus Mariota (quadriceps) and LB Nick Kwiatkoski (concussion) are also out. … DE Yannick Ngakoue hopes to play despite a hamstring injury. … Steelers are relatively healthy going into Week 2. DE Stephon Tuitt (knee) remains on IR but the defensive line was no worse for wear in upset over the Bills.

SERIES NOTES: The Steelers have enjoyed far more success than the Raiders over the past two decades, but have struggled against the silver and black. Las Vegas is 5-2 in its past seven meetings with Pittsburgh going back to 2006 even though the Raiders finished with a losing record in each of the seasons in which they beat Pittsburgh. The Steelers, by comparison, haven’t had a losing season since 2003. … Pittsburgh’s loss in Oakland three years ago was part of a late collapse in which the Steelers dropped four of their final six to miss the playoffs after a 7-2-1 start.

STATS AND STUFF: The Raiders are seeking back-to-back 2-0 starts to the season for the first time since doing it three years in a row from 1982-84. … QB Derek Carr engineered his 22nd career fourth-quarter comeback in last week’s 33-27 overtime win over Baltimore. … The Raiders have lost the past six times they went on the road after a Monday night win. … Pittsburgh owns a 51-34-3 record in home openers, including an 11-3 mark under coach Mike Tomlin. … Steelers LB T.J. Watt has 34 sacks in 32 games at Heinz Field and has had at least a half-sack in 20 of his past 22 home games. … Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger needs 3 TD passes to become the eighth player to QB to reach 400 passing TD plateau. … After allowing NFL-low 14 sacks in 2020, new-look Pittsburgh offensive line that features two rookies and four new starters allowed two sacks in Buffalo. … The Raiders’ pass rush was an issue for Ravens in Monday night win, sacking Baltimore star QB Lamar Jackson three times and forcing the game-turning fumble.

FANTASY TIP: Expect first-year Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada to find creative ways to get Harris in space against a defense that allowed the Ravens to run for 189 yards last week even with Baltimore missing its top three running backs.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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