Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) sacks Cleveland Browns quarterback...

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (90) sacks Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Pittsburgh. Credit: AP/Matt Freed

LAS VEGAS — The similarities between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Las Vegas Raiders are numerous.

Both teams are 1-1, but could just as easily be 0-2 given their subpar performances. Neither side has been able to run the ball, the quarterback play has been erratic, the offensive lines have been suspect and each defense has at times been pushed around.

Yet, barring a tie, one team will emerge from Sunday night's game 2-1 and with some genuine hope of establishing early playoff positioning. The team that is 1-2 will face even more questions about its immediate future.

In Pittsburgh, most of the heat has been on offensive coordinator Matt Canada, with fans chanting in Monday night's game against the Cleveland Browns that he should be fired.

“We've got to find (our identity),” Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett said. “Clearly, we don’t have one.”

The concern is more widespread in Las Vegas, with equal blame directed at the offense and defense.

Both teams' offenses rank near the bottom — Las Vegas at No. 30 (averaging 250 yards) and Pittsburgh at No. 31 (247). Same with both rushing offenses, even with reigning yardage champion Josh Jacobs with the Raiders and two-time 1,000-yard back Najee Harris with the Steelers.

Buffalo Bills defensive end Greg Rousseau (50) tackles Las Vegas...

Buffalo Bills defensive end Greg Rousseau (50) tackles Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Credit: AP/Adrian Kraus

Even the Steelers' star-laden defense has its problems, ranking 30th in giving up nearly 400 yards per game. But Pittsburgh has been opportunistic, scoring two defensive touchdowns to beat the Browns 26-22.

The Raiders' 355-yard defensive average is deceiving because the Denver Broncos had only six possessions in the season opener. Last Sunday, the Buffalo Bills had their way in a 38-10 victory.

“We’re going to find out if we’ve learned from some of those mistakes that we saw and tried to correct,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “I think the attitude has been phenomenal. The response has been great.”

Two similar teams. Two similar situations.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith (56) celebrates in the end...

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith (56) celebrates in the end zone after returning an interception back for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Pittsburgh. Credit: AP/Matt Freed

Only one likely will come out of this weekend feeling slightly better about itself.


Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams at first didn't want to talk about the hit he took at Buffalo from safety Taylor Rapp, but then couldn't help himself.

Adams wasn't pleased with the blow to his head that sent him into concussion protocol. He didn't return to the game, but Adams was cleared to face the Steelers.

Adams called the hit “unnecessary."

“Some people are out of control,” Adams said. "They fly around. They don't really have too much true purpose out there.

"That's the type of stuff that contributes to you not being on the field. That's why you're in when you're blowing us out by 25 at the end of the game. Maybe if that man learns to play the game the right way, he'll see the field. Until then, he'll go and have to live off of plays like that, I guess."


Pittsburgh's typically stout run defense has plenty to work on with veteran defensive tackle Cam Heyward out until at least midseason with a groin injury.

The Steelers have given up a league-worst 386 yards rushing through two games, with San Francisco and Cleveland able to run seemingly at will with Heyward's familiar No. 97 not out there to clog up the middle. Opponents are averaging a staggering 5.6 yards per carry.

“We need better results,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’re giving up too many yards via the run.”

Las Vegas might be the cure for what is ailing Pittsburgh. The Steelers held Jacobs in check in a Christmas Eve victory last December and the Raiders come into the game averaging just 58 yards on the ground through two weeks this year.


The Raiders not only play their home opener, but this is the first game at Allegiant Stadium since facing the San Francisco 49ers in a preseason game Aug. 13. Las Vegas then went on the road for two more exhibition games before beginning the season in Denver and Buffalo.

“I know the Raider fans are going to be out in full effect,” Las Vegas defensive end Maxx Crosby said. “We can't wait to play in front of our crowd.”


While the Steelers have dominated at home on Monday nights — they extended their home winning streak on Mondays to 21 straight with the win over the Browns — things don't go quite so well when they head west.

Pittsburgh is just 20-37 in the Pacific time zone, which includes a 4-8 mark against the Raiders. The Steelers haven't beaten the Las Vegas franchise on the road since 1995, three years before Pickett was born. Tomlin indicated the team is switching up its travel itinerary to ensure “optimum play” while dealing with the time difference, but declined to get into specifics.


AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed.

More football news


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months