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Takeaways from Loss to Las Vegas Raiders: Steelers Must Crack Single-High Code

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PITTSBURGH — The Steelers suffered a tough loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. To say the least, when a loss like this comes around with the injuries that accompanied it, it was not a good Sunday.

The Steelers, now battered and bruised, have a massive mountain to overcome for next week’s game if some of the injuries continue to persist. Luckily, they can at least watch the tape and go back to the drawing board and get a new game plan together. When all is said and done, however, what can be taken away from the Steelers’ loss to the Raiders?

The Steelers Can’t Crack the Code

The Steelers have yet to figure out how to beat what the Ravens put on tape against them last year all the way back in Week 12. Every single team has just copied the game plan of what the Ravens put on tape in that game. That was a primarily single-high defense with a loaded box. Mix in some stunts up front to confuse the offensive line, and that is exactly the blueprint to beat the Steelers.

It really is this simple, at least in that regard. The Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger are being forced to throw into tight windows on low percentage throws on the outside. The middle of the field was not fertile today because the Raiders dropped their linebackers and often doubled JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Until the Steelers can prove that they can consistently take the top off the defense, this will be a big struggle area for them. They will have to prove that they have the receivers to win deep, and more, that Roethlisberger slice and dice against man coverage. There are ways to scheme this up, but it needs to be figured out soon so the Steelers can move the football consistently.

Najee Harris Should Be OK

Najee Harris did not light the world on fire in Week 1 against Buffalo. That is more than fine. After all, he was a player coming into the league and that was his first game in a hostile environment. However, his Week 2 performance was better in nearly all facets. While the offensive line gave him little help, Harris was running hard and making something out of nothing consistently. More importantly, Harris appeared to make all the right reads.

The touchdown reception was fantastic, and Harris made that play happen with a combination of savviness and pure skill. Harris is a talented football player, but running backs can only do so much themselves. He will need help from those around him, including his offensive line, in order to be as productive as possible. However, that will only come with time at this point.

The Offensive Line is a Mess

There could be so much to say here. But still, the point is overall still the same. This offensive line was yet again brutal today after a tough first half against Buffalo. The biggest difference is that the improvement that was there in the second half against the Bills never came in this game. Instead, the Steelers’ offensive line appeared lost and dazed the entire game. Roethlisberger was sacked twice and hit ten total times today. The Steelers could never get anything going on the ground either.

Kendrick Green and Dan Moore were the most disappointing. Instead of showing some flashes, they appeared to be overwhelmed by stunts and movement up front. In particular, Green might simply need a year in an NFL weight training program. Chuks Okorafor struggled to handle Crosby all game. Kevin Dotson was simply caught in the crossfire. Trai Turner had his ups and downs before being ejected, but Solomon Thomas gave him a lot of issues as well. Overall, the offensive line was not good in pass protection and they also could not run the ball. That is a double whammy that simply can not continue.

This Defense Might Have a Weapon

Okay, this defense is badly injured right now. This is much is clear, as the Steelers lost Tyson Alualu, T.J. Watt, Devin Bush, and Joe Haden all over the course of a few days. Now, some of those guys will hopefully come back. However, the Steelers have proven they have one key ability thus far on the season. That ability is to take away the elite playmaker that the offense has on the other side of the ball. In Week 1, that playmaker was Stefon Diggs. In Week 2, that was Darren Waller.

Waller registered six catches for 65 yards on Sunday, and that is always a victory. It is no moral victory, either. This is an extremely promising sign for the Steelers’ defense in the future. Holding Waller to that amount of yards and only allowing 23 points is a win when Derek Carr is playing like that. The offense simply let the defense down, but they did their main job.

Ben Has to Be Better

He echoed this sentiment in his press conference, but Ben Roethlisberger must be better moving forward. He was not good enough on this day. That much is true. No, not everything falls at the feet of Roethlisberger. There is no catch-all for how the offense looked. Roethlisberger made some great throws today, too. Eric Ebron let him down when he made vintage play out of the structure. The throws to Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool down the sideline were dimes. The offensive line let him down.

However, he never felt truly in sync. There were a lot of deep balls that had spotty accuracy and could have been much improved. At times, he did not feel pressure nearly well enough. The ill-advised decision-making when under pressure was there as well this week. It was far from Roethlisberger’s best game. He is not the problem, but he was part of the problem this Sunday. Needless to say, a repeat performance next week is not acceptable.

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