Scoring points could be at a premium when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday night.
Neither team has been able to find a flow when in possession of the ball heading into the Raiders’ home opener.
Pittsburgh (1-1) has scored just 19 offensive points and has punted 13 times, compared to 24 total first downs. The Steelers posted a 26-22 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Monday night behind defensive touchdowns by Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt.
The Raiders (1-1) are tied for last in points per game (13.5). Star rusher Josh Jacobs is coming off a career-worst minus-2 rushing game (on nine attempts) in a 38-10 loss to the host Buffalo Bills.
Jacobs, the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,653 yards last season, has just 46 yards on 28 carries in two games with a long gain of 7.
In the loss to Buffalo, the Raiders ran just 13 second-half offensive plays and 39 for the game as the Bills controlled the ball for 40:04.
“I think we need to address where we went wrong and improve from there,” Jacobs said. “That’s the thing that makes it so frustrating for me is just the potential. You see flashes of how good we can really be.”
The Raiders are adjusting to new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and rank 30th in total offense at 250.5 yards per game.
“It starts with myself,” said Garoppolo, who has passed for 385 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. “I made way too many mistakes — physical, mental, all of it. We couldn’t get into a rhythm. To beat a good team like that at their place, you’ve got to play a lot better than that.”
Star receiver Davante Adams sustained a concussion against Buffalo but was a full practice participant Wednesday. Fellow wideout Jakobi Meyers is still dealing with a concussion sustained in Week 1 and was limited.
The Steelers are 31st in total offense (247.0), and second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett is off to a slow start.
Pickett, who has 454 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions, said Wednesday that the Pittsburgh offense lacks an identity.
“We’ve got to find it. Clearly, we don’t have one,” Pickett said. “It’s a team game, the ultimate team game. One guy does something wrong on a play as an offense, it usually doesn’t go your way.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is deeply troubled by the offensive issues.
“We have to get our mojo back,” Tomlin said. “… We do acknowledge that two is a pattern. We’ve had two outings that are not up to snuff in that regard, and so it has our attention as we are preparing for this next one.”
Watt, who is tied for the NFL lead with four sacks, scored the decisive touchdown against Cleveland on a 16-yard fumble return in the fourth quarter. Highsmith forced the fumble by sacking Deshaun Watson and added a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown.
On Wednesday, the Raiders placed defensive end Chandler Jones on the non-football injury list. Jones has been away from the team after sharply criticizing the organization prior to the season opener.
Defensive end Tyree Wilson and safety Chris Smith II both missed practice with illnesses. Safety Marcus Epps (quad) was limited, as were cornerback Jakorian Bennett (hamstring), linebacker Divine Deablo (rib) and defensive tackle Bilal Nichols (hamstring, hand).
Pittsburgh had six players who didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice due to injury. The list included safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (chest), who was hospitalized after Monday’s game for “precautionary reasons.”
Also missing practice due to injuries were defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (foot), linebacker Markus Golden (knee), safety Damontae Kazee (calf), tight end Darnell Washington (knee) and receiver Gunner Olszewski (concussion).
The Steelers beat visiting Las Vegas 13-10 in Week 16 last season.
–Field Level Media
Josh Allen bounced back from a rough Week 1 performance to throw for three touchdowns as the Buffalo Bills cruised to a 38-10 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday in Orchard Park, N.Y.
After matching his career high with four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble) against the Jets last Monday, Allen returned to form against Las Vegas, completing 31 of 37 passes for 274 yards.
James Cook paced the rushing attack with 123 yards on 17 carries for Buffalo (1-1), which effectively sealed the victory by maintaining possession for 12:50 of the third quarter.
The Bills opened the third with a 15-play, 75-yard drive that ended when Allen found Gabe Davis for a 2-yard touchdown that made it 28-10. Davis finished with six catches for 92 yards.
In the fourth, Tyler Bass added a 28-yard field goal and Damien Harris found the end zone from 1 yard out to complete the scoring.
Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 185 yards with a TD and two interceptions on 16-of-24 passing for the Raiders (1-1), who saw reigning NFL rushing leader Josh Jacobs held to minus-2 yards rushing on nine carries.
Davante Adams hauled in six receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. He left the game late in the fourth quarter after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Daniel Carlson made good on a 47-yard field goal to pull the Raiders within 14-10, but Allen found Khalil Shakir for an 11-yard touchdown with just 18 seconds remaining in the first half to send the Bills into the break up 21-10.
Allen also connected with Dawson Knox for a 2-yard TD in the first half.
Las Vegas flew down the field to open the game, using just 2:44 of clock to drive 75 yards in five plays. Garoppolo capped the march with a 16-yard scoring strike to Adams.
It looked like the Raiders were going to ride that momentum when they forced a three-and-out to quickly get the ball back. But just four plays into their next drive, Terrel Bernard came down with a deflected pass to pick off Garoppolo.
Buffalo set up shop at the Las Vegas 28 and later knotted things at 7-7 when Latavius Murray rushed for a 4-yard touchdown.
–Field Level Media
Russell Wilson was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL last season after a sustained run of success with the Seattle Seahawks.
Wilson’s second season with the Denver Broncos starts Sunday against the visiting Las Vegas Raiders and it will be his first game under new coach Sean Payton, the highly successful former leader of the New Orleans Saints.
Wilson was a colossal flop under 2022 coach Nathaniel Hackett, and Payton’s biggest chore is getting the nine-time Pro Bowler to return to his past form.
Wilson said he doesn’t feel any pressure to bounce back from a campaign that included a career-low 16 touchdown passes.
“Last year is last year,” Wilson said. “It wasn’t anything that I ever wanted in terms of expectations in how I expect to play. You take the good with the bad, the mountains with the valleys. … I’m just ready to play football.”
Payton is in charge of overseeing Wilson’s revival as well as turning around the fortunes of the Broncos. Denver went 5-12 in 2022 while missing the playoffs for the seventh straight season.
Payton reportedly strongly rebuked Wilson’s penchant for worrying about his brand and encouraged him to focus more on football. Their relationship will come under close scrutiny during the season.
“I think throughout the course of the spring training camp, we got a pretty good grasp as to the man’s strengths, the things that he does well,” Payton said of Wilson.
The Raiders (6-11 last season) have beaten the Broncos six straight times and aim to extend the streak under new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Las Vegas parted ways with Derek Carr after last season, and Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco was over despite a 40-17 regular-season record as a starter in six seasons. Brock Purdy’s second-half play in 2022 made Garoppolo expendable.
“I haven’t really gotten into that conservation,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said of Garoppolo’s exit with the 49ers. “I think Jimmy is a competitive person by nature and wants to do his best, prepare hard, work as hard as he possibly can to be the best version of himself that he can be for our team.
“I don’t really know how much he hangs on to things that happened in the past. I think he had a really successful tenure there in San Francisco.”
Garoppolo has two big-time playmakers to work with, running back Josh Jacobs and receiver Davante Adams. Jacobs led the NFL with 1,653 rushing yards last season while Adams had an NFL-leading 14 scoring receptions.
Las Vegas has a star defensive end, Maxx Crosby (league-best 22 tackles for loss last season), but fellow defensive end Chandler Jones is away from the team after sharply criticizing the organization on social media on Tuesday. McDaniels said he didn’t know whether Jones would play Sunday.
“It’s a personal situation, it’s a private matter,” McDaniels said. “If you want to talk about the game on Sunday, I’ll be excited to talk about the game.”
The Broncos added pass rusher Frank Clark (58.5 career sacks) to a defense that includes linebacker Alex Singleton (career-high 163 combined tackles in 2022) and safety Justin Simmons (tied for NFL lead with six interceptions).
Clark was a teammate of Wilson for four seasons (2015-18) in Seattle.
“Russ is a veteran who’s won on multiple levels, he’s been part of successful teams, he’s been part of teams that were not successful,” Clark said. “… But it was the same Russ, so don’t think Russ changed or a bad season is going to shake a guy.”
Broncos tight end Greg Dulcich (personal) missed Wednesday’s practice. Receiver Jerry Jeudy (hamstring), tight end Chris Manhertz (chest) and cornerback Riley Moss (abdomen) were limited.
In addition to Jones, cornerback Brandon Facyson (shin) missed Wednesday’s practice for Las Vegas. Receiver DeAndre Carter (knee) was limited.
–Field Level Media
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams returned to practice on Wednesday following last week’s injury scare.
The three-time All-Pro absorbed a hit to his right leg during Friday’s joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers.
Adams, 30, was examined by trainers before leaving the field under his own power, albeit with a noticeable limp.
Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said Adams was “ready to roll” for Wednesday’s joint practice with the host Los Angeles Rams.
McDaniels also said wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and rookie tight end Michael Mayer will return to the field this week.
“I think you’ll see them a little bit today working back in and doing some things,” McDaniels said. “Again, we’re just trying to take … the right steps with each guy so that we can get them back healthy and ready to go when they’re ready to go.”
Adams tallied 100 catches for 1,516 yards and a league-leading 14 touchdowns in 17 games in his first season with Las Vegas in 2022.
The six-time Pro Bowl selection has 769 receptions for 9,637 yards with 87 touchdowns in 133 career games (126 starts) with the Green Bay Packers (2014-21) and Raiders.
The Raiders will practice with the Rams again Thursday before they face off in a preseason game at SoFi Stadium on Saturday night.
–Field Level Media
NFL rushing champ Josh Jacobs boarded a flight out of Las Vegas on Monday and has no plans to return anytime soon, NFL Network reported.
Jacobs and the Raiders failed to reach an agreement on a long-term contract by last week’s deadline for franchise-tagged players, and he has not signed his $10.1 million franchise tender.
Because he is not under contract, Jacobs will not be subject to any fines for not reporting when the Raiders open training camp this week.
The Raiders did not pick up the fifth-year option on Jacobs’ rookie contract a year ago. He responded by putting up 1,653 rushing yards on 340 touches (4.9 yards per attempt) and 12 touchdowns while starting all 17 games. He added 400 receiving yards to lead the league with 2,053 total yards from scrimmage.
He was a first-team All-Pro and received his second Pro Bowl nod.
In 60 games (59 starts) since the Raiders selected him in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Alabama, Jacobs has rushed for 4,740 yards and 40 touchdowns.
Without Jacobs, the Las Vegas ball-carriers include journeymen Ameer Abdullah and Brandon Bolden.
–Field Level Media
Veteran cornerback Marcus Peters will visit the Las Vegas Raiders again on Monday, NFL Network reported Friday.
Peters, 30, met with the Raiders in May and the two sides have reportedly remained in contact.
A two-time All-Pro, Peters started 13 games for the Baltimore Ravens last season after missing all of 2021 with a torn ACL. He registered 47 tackles and added a sack, an interception and two fumble recoveries.
The Kansas City Chiefs selected Peters with the 18th overall pick in 2015, and he went on to earn NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors that season.
Peters has played in 104 games (103 starts) with the Chiefs (2015-17), Los Angeles Rams (2018-19) and Ravens (2019-20, 2022). He has 346 tackles, 32 interceptions (six returned for touchdowns), 11 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries, with one returned for a TD.
–Field Level Media
The Las Vegas Raiders restructured the contract of defensive end Chandler Jones, multiple outlets reported, saving just over $5 million in cap space for 2023.
In March of 2022, Jones signed a three-year, $51 million deal with the Raiders after 10 seasons in the NFL, including the previous six with the Arizona Cardinals. In restructuring the deal, the Raiders converted $6.33 million of Jones’ 2023 salary into a signing bonus, according to Spotrac.
Jones, 33, had 38 tackles, 4.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries for the Raiders last season. His signature moment with the Raiders came in Week 15 when he grabbed a New England Patriots lateral in the closing seconds and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown to give Las Vegas an unlikely 30-24 victory.
Over 11 NFL seasons with the Patriots, Cardinals and Raiders, Jones has 511 tackles, 112 sacks and 13 fumble recoveries, including two returned for touchdowns.
A four-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro, Jones was a former first-round draft pick (21st overall) by the Patriots in 2012 out of Syracuse.
–Field Level Media
The Las Vegas Raiders signed free agent cornerback Duke Shelley on Thursday. Terms were not disclosed.
Shelley, 26, collected 31 tackles, eight passes defensed and his first career interception in 11 games (five starts) last season with Minnesota.
He has appeared in 41 games (11 starts) for the Vikings and Chicago Bears (2019-21), who drafted him in the sixth round in 2019.
–Field Level Media
With the playoffs slipping away and little to cheer about in a losing season, Pittsburgh Steelers fans are having even their fondest memories turn into moments of melancholy.
The sudden passing Wednesday of Hall of Famer Franco Harris on the eve of the Steelers retiring his jersey and city celebrating one of iconic moments in NFL history has cast a pall over Saturday’s Steelers-Las Vegas Raiders game.
The team said Wednesday it would still honor Harris and retire his jersey at halftime, although many of the other Friday and pregame festivities celebrating Harris and his Immaculate Reception were uncertain as the Steelers and Raiders continued to prepare for their Christmas Eve matchup.
The Steelers had invited members of their 1972 team, including Joe Greene, to attend their planned weekend celebrations and be a part of the halftime ceremony to retire Harris’ No. 32 jersey. Greene and former defensive lineman Ernie Stautner are the only other Steelers to have their jerseys retired.
The league scheduled the game to mark the anniversary of the Immaculate Reception: It will be 50 years and one day since Harris’ remarkable 60-yard touchdown with five seconds remaining gave the Steelers a 13-7 playoff victory against the Raiders on Dec. 23, 1972.
Both teams are 6-8 hoping to retain longshot playoff hopes, with the final playoff qualifier in the AFC at 8-6 and just three games remaining. Yet, both teams have improved lately, with the Raiders winning four of their last five games and the Steelers taking three of their last four.
The Raiders have shown an all-around game recently, with a stout defense, the NFL’s top rusher in Josh Jacobs (1,495 yards) and the pass-catch duo of Derek Carr and Davante Adams paying dividends after a slow start.
Las Vegas has landed on opposite ends of wild finishes in each of the past two weeks, following their late collapse against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 14 with a near-impossible victory in Week 15 courtesy of the New England Patriots’ misguided attempt at avoiding overtime.
On the last play of the game, Raiders defensive end Chandler Jones scooped up the second of two Patriots laterals and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown and the 30-24 victory.
“Every day, honestly, we’re trying to do the right thing,” Carr said about the Raiders keeping their playoff hopes alive. “We’re trying to get … everybody on the right page to do the right thing every day. When everybody does the right things, the result is good.
“A lot of things have to go our way. We have to work very hard and win this week. It starts with my preparation for the Steelers.”
The Raiders welcomed back a pair of pass catchers from injured reserve last week in Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller. Guard Alex Bars (knee) was listed as out of practice Tuesday, while defensive tackle Andrew Billings (fibula) was limited after last playing in Week 12.
The Steelers enter after a defensive-minded 24-16 road victory over the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky was solid with 179 yards passing in a turnover-free performance while taking over for Kenny Pickett, who was out with a concussion.
Trubisky led the Steelers on TD drives during their first two possessions, while the Steelers defense held the Panthers to seven points over the first three quarters.
Pickett was listed as a full practice participant Tuesday and is expected to start against the Raiders. After a season-high 10 receptions, Pittsburgh wide receiver Diontae Johnson (toe) was limited as was running back Najee Harris (hamstring).
Offense might be hard to come by with projected temperatures in the single digits.
“We’ve got to be an all-weather group,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “I think that everybody that lives here and plays here understands and embraces that. That’s one of the reasons why we continually take the (preparation) approach we take.
–Field Level Media