Photo Credit: Don Wright/AP


FSM Essential Recap: Raiders vs Steelers – Week 16

Las Vegas Raiders (6-9) | Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)

Franchise Sports Media


After a memorial jersey retirement for the late-great-Franco Harris, the Grinch swoops in and steals the Raiders’ Christmas. Despite leading for all but the game’s final 46 seconds, Vegas loses late as Pickett throws a winning touchdown, and Carr tosses three second-half INTs.


Raiders vs Steelers
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Despite treading near the bottom of the AFC standings for most of the season, all eyes seem to be on Raiders-Steelers this holiday weekend. With both teams at 6-8 coming into Week 16, the loser of this game will be mathematically eliminated from the postseason; the winner clings to slim hope going forward. But, of course, there’s another reason this may be the most intriguing NFL game of the week.

On Wednesday, just a few moons before the 50th anniversary of his “Immaculate Reception” and only a couple days before he was set to have his #32 jersey retired (at halftime of Saturday’s Raiders-Steelers game), Pittsburgh HOF RB Franco Harris passed away. With the two sides from the famed 1972 playoff game on hand for a Christmas Eve spectacular, it’s safe to say Harris’ memory will be at the forefront come Saturday night.

Off-field storylines aside, the Raiders and Steelers will put it all on the line—to add more adversity—in Pittsburgh’s single-digit weather. On the injury front, the Raiders will be as healthy as one could hope for in Week 16. Except for CB Rock Ya-Sin, all Raiders’ starters from both sides of the ball should be ready to suit up; That means DT Andrew Billings may finally return to action for the first time since Week 12.

For the Steelers, WR Diontae Johnson (questionable) is nursing a toe injury. LB Myles Jack’s status is also uncertain as he deals with a pulled groin. But that should be all for the last-minute stuff; Let’s hop into the on-field action!


Previous contests


HOF game: Raiders 27 – Jaguars 11
PRE1: Raiders 26 – Vikings 20
PRE2: Raiders 15 – Dolphins 13

PRE3: Raiders 23 – Patriots 6

WK1: Chargers 24 – Raiders 19 (L)
WK2: Cardinals 29 – Raiders 23 (OT)/(L)
WK3: Titans 24 – Raiders 22 (L)
WK4: Raiders 32 – Broncos 23 (W)
WK5: Chiefs 30 – Raiders 29 (L)
WK7: Raiders 38 – Texans 20 (W)

WK8: Saints 24 – Raiders 0 (L)
WK9: Jaguars 27 – Raiders 20 (L)
WK10: Colts 25 – Raiders 20 (L)
WK11: Raiders 22 – Broncos 16 (OT)/(W)
WK12: Raiders 40 – Seahawks 34 (OT)/(W)
WK13: Raiders 27 – Chargers 20 (W)
WK14: Rams 17 – Raiders 16 (L)
WK15: Raiders 30 – Patriots 24 (W)


1st Quarter


Raiders vs Steelers
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Finally, the Raiders started a game by actually winning the opening coin toss. However, perhaps in an attempt to beat worse weather later in the game, Las Vegas elected to take the football first. As it would play out, the decision wound up paying off for the Silver & Black. The initial legs of the possession were driven by RB Josh Jacobs hitting the ground, picking up an early 1st down. A couple of plays later, QB Derek Carr found TE Foster Moreau on a curl route to move the chains a second time. Next, the Raiders continued an effective rhythm of optimistic Jacobs carries with a 1st down run around the right side from Carr. Shortly after, Vegas fell behind the sticks after DT Cameron Heyward sacked Carr for an eight-yard loss. When eventually faced with a 3rd & long, RB Ameer Abdullah leaked out on a Texas route where Carr found him in stride, picking up another 1st down (inside Pittsburgh’s red zone). Now with some real momentum, DC4 went to WR Hunter Renfrow along the right sideline, who made the fantastic catch, stayed in bounds, hit the brakes on his defender, and skipped into the end zone for a Raider touchdown! After a 14-play, longer-eight-minute opening drive, Las Vegas is up 7-0.

In the wake of Franco Harris’ passing, it seemed only fitting that the Steelers’ first offensive play from scrimmage was HB dive to another tailback named Harris (Najee). Unfortunately for the wavers of the Terrible Towel, Harris was stuffed in the backfield for a short loss. In addition, QB Kenny Pickett looked a bit uncomfortable returning to action after his second concussion of the season. Still, he managed to thread the needle to WR Dionate Johnson for a 1st down on his opening series. From there, Pittsburgh’s offense sputtered into a punting situation thanks to energetic pursuit from Vegas. With the Steelers punting back to the Silver & Black, it’s still 7-0.

The Raiders did not have much to respond with on their second possession of the night. After two touches from Jacobs and an incompletion intended for WR Mack Hollins, Vegas went three-and-out, giving P A.J. Cole his first burn of the night. It’s Pittsburgh’s ball at their own 25-yard line.

Pickett and his offense seemed much more relaxed on the Steelers’ second possession. Harris got them going by rumbling up the middle for a 1st down on the drive’s first play. Next, Pickett hooked up with Johnson again, this time for a gain of 15 yards (moving the chains a second time). That’s when the opening quarter’s clock expired.


2nd Quarter


Raiders vs Steelers                
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

On the next play, Pickett went back to Johnson, where it looked like CB Amik Robertson had the route jumped, but the ball was just out of the defender’s reach, allowing Johnson to make the catch for a 13-yard gain. Now approaching the red zone, Pickett turned a broken play into a positive scramble for Pittsburgh. However, the drive stalled a couple of plays later, and with 15+ MPH winds, K Chris Boswell (narrowly) missed the 43-yard field goal attempt to the left. So, after nine plays on offense, the Steelers remain off the scoreboard.

Las Vegas did not have much to say on the next offensive drive. The possession started on the right foot as Carr connected with Adams on a slick jet-sweep PA pass for a 1st down. However, the Raiders lost four yards on the next play after Jacobs was stuffed in the backfield. A couple of plays later, and Raider Nation is punting right back. At this point, the wind chill has dropped to sub-zero (-6 degrees Fahrenheit).

With their home crowd attempting to rally the energy behind them, the Steelers’ offense retook the field with a heavy run-game emphasis. Utilizing Harris and RB Jaylen Warren, Pittsburgh was able to bruise through the individual tackle attempts of the Raiders. Also, Pickett was sure to get TE Pat Freiermuth involved in the action on this possession, who broke several tackles on multiple plays himself. After 13 plays on offense, Pittsburgh had rumbled all the way down to Vegas’ 26-yard line. Eventually faced with 3rd & 8 just after the two-minute warning, Pickett nearly connected with Freiermuth for another 1st down, but the stone-like football bounced off the tight end’s hands to fall incomplete. Next, Boswell trotted back out for the Steelers, this time converting his 44-yard try. Unfortunately, there will be no shutout on Christmas Eve this year, and the Raiders still lead 7-3.

With less than 1:30 before the half, Carr and the Vegas offense came out up-tempo. On the first play, Carr went short up the seam to Moreau, who bulldozed through a couple of tacklers for near-1st down. From there, Jacobs squeezed in a brief rush up the middle to pick up the sticks before Carr missed a diving Renfrow on the next play. Over the next two snaps, Carr would try a deep ball to Adams and TE Darren Waller each, the latter coming down with a momentous 3rd down reception to pick up 34 yards, moving the chains. Now well onto Pittsburgh’s side of the field, Carr missed high on a sure-fire touchdown to a wide-open Adams, who had his defender smoked off the line. A couple more incompletions followed, and the Raiders settled for a successful 40-yard field goal from K Daniel Carlson. With Las Vegas now up 10-3, there was only time left in the first half for the ensuing kickoff. Heading into the locker room, it’s still anyone’s game, as we have only seen one touchdown all night. But first, let’s retire and honor Franco Harris and his No. 32 jersey.


3rd Quarter


Raiders vs Steelers
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Since returning from the locker rooms, the playing conditions have sustained at a smooth -4. Being that the Raiders elected to receive the game’s opening kickoff, Pittsburgh’s offense resumed competition in the second half. The Steelers’ possession started with promise after Pickett reconnected with Freiermuth for a 1st down right out of the gate. However, Freiermuth was flagged on the next play for offensive pass interference, pushing Pittsburgh back behind the sticks. Now with 1st & 20, Pickett used the next two plays to hit Freiermuth and WR George Pickens to cross the line to gain. Even worse for Raider Nation DE Chandler Jones went off on a cart after errantly colliding with “Mad” Maxx Crosby. At the moment, it sounds like an elbow injury for Jones that will keep him out until at least after Santa’s yearly trip tonight.

Resuming play after tending to Jones, Pickett’s following pass was missed high over the middle and was tipped directly to LB Denzel Perryman for a timely interception! Just when Pittsburgh was building momentum on the field and in the stands, the Raiders forced the takeaway! But before I could even start a new paragraph, on the very next play from scrimmage, Carr’s ensuing pass bounced off Moreau’s hands and into the mittens of CB Arthur Maulet. After interceptions on back-to-back plays, the football is with Pittsburgh.

After a weird sequence of events, Pickett and the Steelers’ O got back into the rhythm they had before the pick. Pickens was able to get back involved by turning a couple of short catches into gains up the field. However, the Raiders would eventually rally to stop Harris’ ground attack, forcing the Black & Yellow into a field goal attempt. This time from 52 yards out, Boswell missed his second kick of the night. At that, the game remains 10-3: Raiders.

Now with Las Vegas back on offense, Carr used back-to-back completions to Renfrow to pick up a nifty 1st down. From there, a false start penalty on Waller pushed the Raiders back behind the sticks. Next, Jacobs provided a short run up the middle before the cold got the best of another pass catcher; On a pass over the middle to Renfrow, the football hit high off his hands and deflected into the possession of All-Pro S Minkah Fitzpatrick for another interception. With neither entirely his fault, that’s Carr’s second pick of the third quarter.

The Steelers essentially had zilch to offer on their next possession. Then, after straight three completions, Pittsburgh goes three-and-out: Why both sides are attempting to pass so often in these conditions is beyond me.

For Vegas, the offense returned to play with an increased tempo. After Jacobs took a run off LT for a short gain, Carr delivered a strike to Renfrow on a post to move the chains. Next, a toss-left to Jacobs resulted in a gashing run downed inside Pittsburgh’s red zone, but a ticky-tac offensive facemask penalty was called on Moreau to nullify the game’s longest gain. From there, the Raiders could not make up the deficit, eventually taking a 13-yard sack on 3rd down. That would be the final play of the everlasting-3Q.


4th Quarter


Raiders vs Steelers
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

To make matters worse for the Silver & Black, Cole’s ensuing punt was a flopper, sailing out-of-bounds at midfield–With an advantageous position, the ball is back with Pittsburgh. Najee Harris made sure to dazzle as he took Pickett’s next pass up the right side, hurdling over CB Nate Hobbs for a 17-yard pickup. The Steelers then fell behind the chains after a penalty early in the next series, but Pickett managed to find Johnson along the left side for an 11-yard gain. Next, out of the backfield, Warren lost his defender to make a critical 3rd & 5 reception. After picking up the 1st down, Pittsburgh stalled on the following series, largely thanks to the Raiders’ closing ability on defense. Trusting in Boswell not to miss his third FG of the night, the kicker converted the 40-yard try. With just under ten minutes left to play, Vegas’ lead shrinks to 10-6. Oh, joy; It’s another tight contest coming down to the wire.

Abdullah tried to zap life into the offense by taking the following field goal out for a reasonable return. From there, Carr handed to Jacobs for a gain between the tackles, then connected with WR Mack Hollins on the outside for a 1st down. The Raiders attempted to go back up the middle with Jacobs, but he was stood up for a no-gain. Then on 2nd down, Carr was engulfed by a very Blitzburg-esque rush, dropping the quarterback for a 10-yard loss. Now facing 3rd & 18, a check-down pass to Abdullah could not do the trick this time. So, with 6:06 remaining on the clock, the Raiders are punting back to the Steelers.

As Pittsburgh’s offense marched back out, LB Denzel Perryman trotted off the field with a shoulder injury. To make it sting more, the health cart “malfunctioned,” and Perryman was literally forced to walk to the tunnel. For the immediate, his presence was not missed, as the Steelers were expeditiously forced into a three-and-out. Despite the rampant boos flooding Acrisure Stadium, Mike Tomlin (who has his first losing season in 16 years at post staring him in the face) forces his side to punt back to the Raiders.

With only four and a half minutes to play, the Raiders had an opportunity to slam the door on Pittsburgh’s 2022 season. However, like many times through the previous weeks, the offense could not answer the call when it mattered most. So naturally, Vegas stuck to the ground, relying on Jacobs to keep the clock moving. Yet, this time, the Steelers were up to the task, flying around and forcing the Raiders into a rapid three-and-out of their own. So let’s get ready for another nail-biter.

On the ensuing possession, Pickett fell into one of his best rhythms of the night. At first, the rookie from Pitt used multiple passes to Freiermuth to pick up two 1st downs (one that needed an official review to confirm). From there, Pickett dumped the ball off over the middle to Harris, who made the catch and proceeded to stampede through Vegas defenders for another 1st down. Now approaching the red zone with roughly 60 seconds left in the game, Pickett went back to Freiermuth on 3rd down, who was tackled in bounds, forcing Pittsburgh to burn a timeout.

Since Freiermuth was a yard short on the previous play, Pittsburgh was faced with 4th & 1. With zero hesitation, Pickett got on the ball and went QB sneak up the gut to convert the pivotal 4th down. On the very next play from the LV 14-yard line, Pickett whipped a strike on a short post to Pickens in the end zone, giving us our first lead change of the game with 46 seconds left to play. As epic as this is, it feels like just another week in Raider Nation. It’s now 13-10: Steelers.

Stop me if you heard this before; With under a minute to play, Derek Carr is taking the field in an attempt to bring the Raiders back after just suffering a late score. I’ll save you the drama. After missing an open Adams along the left sideline, Carr then overthrew Renfrow in the middle of the field, which never results in good things for an offense. Right there waiting in centerfield was CB Cameron Sutton, who hauled in Carr’s third interception of the second half. Despite not reaching the opposing red zone for the first 59:10 of the game, the Steelers emerged victorious on Christmas Eve.




With the 13-10 loss in Pittsburgh, the Las Vegas Raiders drop to (6-9) on the year and are officially eliminated from AFC playoff contention. This season, they gave us hope, then doubt, then hope, then doubt, then hope, and lastly, disappointment. There may never be another single season like the 2022 Raiders, playing nearly every game down to the wire.


QB Derek Carr may have finally pushed himself out of Raider Nation with this last game. Carr is absolutely an enigma, as you could certainly do much worse at the quarterback spot. However, in all likelihood, it seems this professional relationship has simply run its course. With McDaniels the newer influence in town between him and DC4, the head coach will likely want to explore other options at signal-caller next season–gotta start making changes somewhere, right?


On New Year’s Day, the Raiders will next match up with another longtime rival, welcoming the San Francisco 49ers to Allegiant Stadium for the first time. Restoring the old “Battle of the Bay” games, kickoff in Week 17 is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 1, at 1:05 pm PST and will be televised on Fox 5 (local radio play-by-play on RNR AM920).

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-Gabe Santiago – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Gabe on Twitter & Instagram at @gps_onthemic

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