3 Takeaways from Steelers' Week 2 Loss
The Pittsburgh Steelers notched a big road win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, and they had high hopes for a 2-0 start heading into their home opener on Sunday. However, things didn't go nearly as well this week.
Pittsburgh's defense gave up 425 total yards as the Steelers couldn't get back in the game late while falling to the Las Vegas Raiders 26-17 at Heinz Field. After winning its first 11 games of the 2020 season, Pittsburgh suffered its first loss much earlier in 2021.
The Raiders are 2-0 after they beat the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1, so perhaps this will end up being a case of the Steelers losing to a team that is poised for big things this season. But there are some issues that Pittsburgh will need to correct to produce positive results itself.
Here are three takeaways from the Steelers' Week 2 loss.
Defense Gets Decimated by Several Key Injuries
The Steelers' defense did not perform nearly as well as it did in Week 1, as the Raiders racked up yards and converted on some big plays. However, Pittsburgh also wasn't fielding its best defense for much of the day.
Linebacker Devin Bush and cornerback Joe Haden were inactive because of soft-tissue injuries. Defensive tackle Tyson Alualu suffered an ankle fracture early. And perhaps the most notable loss came when linebacker T.J. Watt departed in the first half with a groin injury.
That's four defensive starters who the Steelers were missing, so things could have gone quite a bit differently if they had been playing. And it will remain a concern moving forward, as Alualu is expected to miss time and it's unclear when the others may return.
"It's going to have to be a collective effort," Pittsburgh defensive tackle Cameron Heyward said, per ESPN's Brooke Pryor. "It's not one man to be Superman, but the group has to pick up the slack."
If it doesn't, the Steelers may continue to have struggles stopping opposing offenses, especially when they begin to play against their AFC North rivals.
Harris Flashing Potential, but Still Room for Growth
Many people expected Najee Harris to have immediate NFL success, considering he was one of only two running backs taken during the first round of the 2021 draft and was getting an opportunity to be Pittsburgh's starter right away. But there have been some ups and downs for the rookie through two weeks.
Harris flashed his potential on Sunday by scoring his first career touchdown (which came on a 25-yard reception in the fourth quarter) and unleashing a devastating stiff arm on Las Vegas safety Johnathan Abram early in the game. It's clear that Harris has an impressive skill set.
However, Harris is averaging only 3.2 yards per carry through his first two games, having rushed for 83 yards on 26 attempts. He contributed more in the passing game this week, though, notching five receptions for 43 yards.
Harris remains Pittsburgh's clear No. 1 back, and it seems likely that he'll continue to get plenty of touches moving forward. So there should be a lot of opportunity for him to keep adjusting to the NFL level.
It may only be a matter of time before Harris has a breakthrough performance now that he's got a pair of games under his belt.
Offense Needs to Play Better to Win Games
The Steelers beat the Bills in Week 1 despite having only 252 yards of total offense. That type of showing may have been enough to pull out that victory, but it wasn't in Week 2, and there's a good chance it won't be enough in future weeks, either.
Pittsburgh had 331 total yards against Las Vegas, while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for 295 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Steelers didn't do a great job protecting him, as he was sacked twice and hit 10 times.
Of Pittsburgh's first seven possessions, only one resulted in points. And Roethlisberger, an 18-year NFL veteran, took the blame while trying to find answers for the Steelers' offense.
"I don't know. It's frustrating because I put a lot of stinkin' time in, more than I probably ever have," Roethlisberger said, per The Athletic's Mark Kaboly. "I'm not really sure. We got to get it figured out, though, because I'm frustrated that I'm not playing well enough."
The same can be said about several other Pittsburgh offensive players, and how quickly the Steelers get things turned around on this side of the ball could greatly impact how the rest of the 2021 season will go for them.