As a whole, the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense was below the line for the second week in a row in their loss against the Las Vegas Raiders. After watching the tape, here are my thoughts on each positional group's performance from Sunday's game.
Roethlisberger was under duress for the majority of the Raiders game and is now dealing with a left pec injury that could affect his practice participation. His performance on Sunday could be categorized as solid, especially given the circumstances. The numbers (295 yards, one touchdown and one interception) are average, but putting up just 17 points on the board isn't going to be enough to win most games.
There were some really impressive flashes:
The throw to Diontae Johnson down the left sideline was a dime under pressure and after review, Johnson should have scored instead of going out of bounds. In the second half, he unloaded another deep ball down the same sideline to Chase Claypool, who also may have scored if he had stayed on his feet. He was accurate on pretty much everything underneath. He even made a vintage play with a defender hanging on his back to Eric Ebron, which was unfortunately dropped.
His lone interception was an example of a guy trying to do too much and while Johnson quit on the route, hard to argue against throwing that one away. There were a couple of missed opportunities. He missed JuJu Smith-Schuster over the middle on a third down play that resulted in a sack.
Overall, he looked sharper than he did in Buffalo but didn't get the chance at a game-winning drive this time around.
Najee Harris looked like one of the Steelers' best players on either side of the ball against the Raiders. The rushing numbers still look pedestrian (10 carries for 38 yards) but it was in the passing game where he made the most impact, catching all five of his targets for 43 yards and a touchdown.
Speaking of the touchdown, what an effort that was from the first-round pick. The Steelers struggled all day, but he provided spark and splash at different times in the game.
After catching a pass in the flat, Harris laid a stiff arm on Raiders safety Jon Abram that was just disrespectful. There isn't going to be much to get excited over in the run game until he stops getting hit in the backfield.
Overall, I thought he won the one-on-one matchups Sunday that he didn't win in week one. That shows improvement and there should be no doubt that Harris will continue to get much better as time passes on. His work in pass protection was fine, but there were a couple occasions where he was tasked with chipping the edge defender where he could have provided a little more physicality.
Diontae Johnson was Roethlisberger's go-to man on Sunday as he hauled in nine catches for 105 yards. The Raiders really didn't have much of an answer for him on Sunday and it would have been wise to get him even more involved than they did.
Johnson has strung together back high-level performances following a 2020 season where he was one of the more scrutinized players on the team.
Smith-Schuster did what he seems to do every week these days. He makes a bunch of short grabs underneath, breaks a handful of tackles and proves himself as a reliable option. Unfortunately, the Steelers still aren't using him down the field enough. Even when they did, the Raiders chose to bracket him on important downs.
Chase Claypool's performance was very up and down. He provided the Steelers some splash by hauling in a deep ball from Roethlisberger late in the game. He's struggled some in familiar areas as last season, failing to stay on his feet and come down with contested catches down the field.
Roethlisberger and Claypool were so close to hooking up for a huge touchdown in the end zone, but Claypool lost a 50/50 battle with Casey Heyward. The throw needed to be about a yard more inside, but Claypool got two hands on the football, with a defender five inches shorter winning the rep.
The second-year receiver has the tools to become a big-time weapon, especially if he can start making some of these plays down the field a little more consistently. James Washington was a non-factor but did drop his only target in the fourth quarter.
Pat Friermuth continues to be well ahead of where most anticipated he would be as a rookie. In the first two weeks of the season, he is already out-snapping Eric Ebron and it's not difficult to figure out why. He's continued to solidify his rotation as a sure-handed pass catcher.
Roethlisberger hooked up with his rookie tight end on a nifty stick route to move the chains in the second half of the game. He's also being thrown right into the fire in the run game. The Steelers are asking a lot out of him in that regard. The results are mixed so far as he needs to get a little more physical at the point of attack. However, he's shown to be competent in that area and has a good base with plenty of room to continually improve.
Eric Ebron can still be an effective TE2 in the passing game, but the question is: where do his targets come from? It would be a welcomed sight to see him hit on a couple of seam routes to open things up for other guys underneath. As we mentioned above, his only opportunity on Sunday ended in a drop on a scramble drill.
Ebron is also being phased out of some two tight end sets in favor of Zach Gentry. While nowhere near the pass-catcher, Gentry seems to be the preferred choice as a run blocker. The only noteworthy play from Gentry was a negative one. He got away with a hold on Maxx Crosby on an outside run play to the right side.
Where do we even begin here? Just an ugly performance all around from this unit. Roethlisberger was pressured on nearly half of his attempts through the air and some of the hits that were delivered were vicious. The Raiders edge defenders were in the backfield often and Maxx Crosby was a big factor in the game. The line made Solomon Thomas look like a Pro Bowler, as it was arguably the best performance of his career.
The performance in the run game wasn't much better. There were reps where multiple linemen just lost at the point of attack and there were others where it was just one member who tanked the otherwise fine play. Dan Moore Jr. and Kendrick Green look like rookies thus far and are flashing from time to time, but you can just tell that neither are really ready to be impact players just yet.
Trai Turner had some solid pass-rushing reps but looks like a limited player at this stage in his career, the injuries seem to have zapped some of his athleticism needed to get out in space. Chukwuma Okorafor was better in week two, especially in the run game. However, It's becoming less and less likely that he's going to be able to be the type of tackle that the Steelers envisioned that he would be at this point in his career.
Arguably the biggest disappointment this week was Kevin Dotson. Dotson was a player that many had high expectations for after a strong rookie campaign as a reserve. He was a mess in pass protection on Sunday, allowing a handful of pressures up the middle. His play in the ground game was not much better, either. Dotson's a really talented player who needs to play up to his potential if this offensive line has any shot of developing into an above-average unit any time soon.
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