Quarterback Derek Carr again showed mastery of coach Jon Gruden’s offense, thriving with a nearly non-existent rushing attack. As for the defense, they made their presence felt for 60 minutes, harassing QB Ben Roethlisberger early and often.
Here are the players that impacted the Raiders’ big win the most, for the better and for the worse.
In reality, Carr is a winner or a loser every week. He’s the leader of the team and gets all of the credit or all of the blame.
But it’s impossible to leave him off the winners’ list after his performance against the Steelers. The Raiders tallied just 56 rushing yards behind an inexperienced offensive line beset by injuries. The absence of running back Josh Jacobs didn’t help. The pass protection was spotty, too, but it barely fazed Carr.
With the Steelers paying extra attention to tight end Darren Waller, Carr found his other options with ease. On the afternoon, Carr hit 28 of 37 passes for 382 yards and two touchdowns — one to tight end Foster Moreau and the other to the next of this week’s winners.
Henry Ruggs III
On this Sunday in Pittsburgh, wide receiver Henry Ruggs III did exactly what he’s in a Raiders uniform to do. He caught a 61-yard bomb from Carr for a fourth-quarter touchdown, increasing the Raiders’ lead to an insurmountable 23-14 advantage.
Ruggs had some other moments, too. In total, he had five receptions on seven targets for 113 yards. He also caught a crossing route and nicely eluded two defenders, showing he has more to his game than raw speed.
But that speed is indeed vicious. Carr and Gruden have a real weapon in the second-year player.
It’s a shame that only one Raiders defender can crack the winners’ column, with an array of big performances from Las Vegas’ revamped group. But defensive tackle Solomon Thomas had two quarterback sacks, a tackle for loss, a tipped pass and three quarterback hits. He also threw in a roughing the passer penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct call for good measure.
Team captain Maxx Crosby demands a nod here, too. His play on the edge led the way for Thomas and the entire group, showing no regard for Roethlisberger when he arrived in the backfield. Crosby laid several big hits on the Steelers’ star signal-caller from the game’s outset, good for an official five QB hits.
But Thomas had the most to gain with his performance. A former top-5 pick in the NFL Draft, he’s looking to rejuvenate his career. He took big steps toward that end on Sunday.
The Raiders rookie offensive tackle had a rough day, which was unfortunately punctuated by an oblique injury that knocked him out of the game.
Before that, he allowed Steelers DE T.J. Watt to get around the top of his block and sack Carr in the first half, causing a fumble in the process. Later in the game, Leatherwood got called for holding, negating a touchdown pass from Carr to WR Bryan Edwards.
The Raiders still need Leatherwood healthy, however. Las Vegas’ depth is getting tested early up front, and though Leatherwood had a rough day, he still shows tremendous promise for a rookie and is holding his own more often than not.
You know it was a tough day for the Raiders offensive line when OT Kolton Miller shows up on the list.
But Miller played a big role in the Raiders’ collapse on the goal line near the end of the first half. Las Vegas made it to the Steelers’ 2-yard line but Miller had two penalties. One was a false start and the other for blocking illegally downfield on a screen pass.
Leatherwood contributed his aforementioned holding call on this drive, which could have ended in an Edwards TD but instead resulted in a Daniel Carlson field goal. (Shoutout to Carlson, by the way. He’s been marvelous.)
Cornerback Damon Arnette got his chance to impress against the Steelers with starters Casey Hayward Jr. and Trayvon Mullen each taking some snaps off with minor ailments. At first, it went okay. He allowed a reception, but he followed that up with a nice pass breakup.
Soon thereafter, however, he looked foolish defending Steelers WR Chase Claypool on a 52-yard reception for Pittsburgh. Arnette allowed the catch, but then he quit on the play, failing to touch Claypool down. Claypool got up and ran for more yardage as Arnette barely paid attention.
For a coaching staff trying to build their own confidence in Arnette, that play likely spoke volumes. Time will tell how many more chances he gets. Fortunately for the Raiders, the entire team played hard all day and they still came away with the win, which puts Las Vegas’ record at a surprising 2-0 early in the campaign.