The Pittsburgh Steelers went into Allegiant Stadium and came out victorious against the Las Vegas Raiders. It was another strong showing defensively with their offense finally showing some signs of life as well. With back-to-back wins, they are now sitting atop the AFC North standings thus far. It’s time for this weeks version of dudes and duds.
Stud: T.J. Watt
It almost feels too easy to continually put Watt on this list. But make no mistake about it, he’s been absolutely dominant so far in 2023. Raiders right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor came into the games with a spotless record of zero pressures allowed, but Watt made quick work of him all night long. Now the Steelers all-time sack leader, Watt tallied two more onto his season total which sits at six. Even when he wasn’t able to bring down Garopollo, he was consistently generating pressure and forcing the quarterback into some bonehead decisions. He’s off to another Defensive Player of the Year caliber start.
Stud: Calvin Austin III
After missing his entire rookie season with a foot injury, Calvin Austin has been thrust into major playing time due to Diontae Johnson’s injury. He blew the doors off Vegas.
With an electrifying 72-yard touchdown snag after dusting Raiders corner Marcus Peters off the line of scrimmage. His speed was on display as he created an unbelievable about of separation vertically. He finished with just two catches but did draw another defensive penalty which gave the Steelers offense another first down. Pittsburgh isn’t clicking well enough to consistently string together long drives so the need for explosive plays is paramount. Austin gave them a huge boost early tonight.
Stud: Keeanu Benton
Simply put, Keeanu Benton needs more playing time. Not only is he a solid run defender, there’s real pass rush potential with this kid. He used his patented club-swim move to notch his first career sack tonight. Benton also drew a hold just a few plays later on a play where it looked like he might have had another chance to bring down Garopollo. Between the quick first step and the hand usage, Benton’s flashed a ton of impressive reps in limited usage. Pittsburgh has indicated they wish to bring him along slowly but it doesn’t seem like that can be the plan for much longer.
Stud: Montravius Adams
There wasn’t much in the box score for Adams but his get-off caused the Raiders some issues tonight. He nearly beat the ball to the running back early in the game. He was able to make a couple run stops as well. Adams is a fine depth piece to a pretty loaded front and when he’s playing at a high level, this unit is insanely dangerous.
Stud: Matt Canada’s offensive adjustments
This Steelers offense had been dreadful through the first two weeks of the season and there needed to be some major adjustments heading into this bout with Las Vegas. We saw intriguing wrinkles tonight. It felt like more spread gun runs, particularly inside zone plays which had some success. They moved the launch point for Kenny Pickett several times and even threw in some under-center, play-action stuff. This is baseline modern-day NFL offense stuff, but it’s nice to see nonetheless.
Stud: Pressley Harvin
Ever since Mike Tomlin ripped his performance two weeks ago, Pressley Harvin has been on another level. It’s pretty clear that he’s got enough talent to stick in this league. It appears to be more of a question regarding his confidence and/or consistency. But he was money once again in primetime. Kudos to him.
Stud: Pat Freiermuth
Welcome back to the offense, number 88. After two straight weeks with just one reception, Freiermuth finished the game with three catches for 41 yards and a touchdown score. The first two grabs moved the chains for the Steelers’ offense while the touchdown catch was more so due to offensive design than anything else. Still, it was nice to see the young playmaker get reintegrated back into the offense.
Dud: DeMarvin Leal
With Cam Heyward out for the foreseeable future, DeMarvin Leal is getting extended run at defensive end. It’s not that he’s been noticeably bad, but there’s been few splashes of anything worth getting excited about. The big reason that he landed on the duds list this week was his penalty on the Raiders field goal in the fourth quarter try which gave them an automatic first down. As ticky-tack as it may seem, that’s such an avoidable error that simply cannot happen in a one-score game. Luckily Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels bailed him out with another baffling decision just mere moments later or else we’d be talking about this error even more.
Dud: Whoever was covering Davante Adams
While Levi Wallace was certainly the one who took the brunt of Davante Adams’ wraith, he definitely wasn’t alone. Adams beat Patrick Peterson, Joey Porter Jr. and even Minkah Fitzpatrick at least once throughout the game. Pittsburgh had an excellent game plan for him last year, but lightning didn’t strike twice. 13 catches, 172 yards and a pair of touchdown scores was the final line for the Raiders star receiver. As impressive as those numbers are, they could have been even better if not for some errant throws from his quarterback. In the first couple weeks of the season, the corners have been lit up by some really talented receivers making this something to monitor moving forward.
Dud: Chukwuma Okorafor
It felt like the pass protection overall was a bit spotty and while it’s always tough to pick out winners/losers in the trenches, it didn’t feel like Chukwuma Okorafor had a banner day. Maxx Crosby beat him for a sack on a rep where he had inside help but didn’t play to his leverage. Whenever the Steelers tried to throw the ball while leaving Crosby in one-on-one situations, it seemed like he was making the most of those opportunities.
Dud: Run Blocking
It’s tough to pinpoint every single thing that is wrong with the Steelers run game right now but it’s brutal to watch. Whether it’s Najee Harris or Jaylen Warren toting the rock, they are getting hit in the backfield far too frequently. Pittsburgh continues to ask Mason Cole to execute blocking assignments on the move that he is simply not athletic enough to make. It was a bit better than weeks prior but they were still only successful on 31% of their rushes. If Pittsburgh wishes to become more consistent on offense, particularly against better defenses than the one they faced tonight, they must solve their run game woes.