LAS VEGAS – The Steelers just needed a trip to Las Vegas to forget about the offensive woes that had troubled them in their first two games.
Only this trip wasn't for rest and relaxation. This was a business trip for the Steelers. And Sunday night, business was good.
Playing before a very pro-Steelers crowd at Allegiant Stadium, the Steelers got two touchdown passes from Kenny Pickett as they defeated the Raiders, 23-18 here Sunday night.
"I was really proud of the efforts and the playmaking," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. "We did what we needed to do to secure a victory. It's still very early stages of the year. We have a lot to learn and a lot to teach, but it's good to do so with the victory."
Pickett, who had thrown just two touchdown passes against three interceptions to open the season, posted the first multi-touchdown pass game of his young career, tossing scores to Calvin Austin III and Pat Freiermuth while throwing for 235 yards.
Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 3 game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium
"It's never going to be perfect," said Pickett. "There are always things that I'm going to want to improve on and get back to the drawing board. But I think it's a great step for us as a team to come on the road, back-to-back primetime wins."
It was punch, counterpunch early in this game as both teams looked for an opening.
The Raiders (1-2) forced the Steelers (2-1) to go three-and-out on their first two possessions, and after the second, they scored on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to Devante Adams on fourth-and-inches play-action to go ahead 7-0.
But the Steelers, who had yet to pick up a first down to that point, didn't bother with a drive on their next possession.
Facing third-and-7, Pickett found Austin behind cornerback Marcus Peters and safety Marcus Epps 40 yards down the field between the hash marks for a 72-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 7-7.
The touchdown was the longest of the season for the Steelers, edging a 71-yarder to George Pickens last week against the Browns and was Pickett's first completion of the game on his fourth pass attempt.
The Raiders had a chance to take the lead early in the second quarter, but Levi Wallace jumped inside of rookie tight end Michael Mayer at the Las Vegas 31 to intercept Garoppolo.
That helped set the Steelers up for a 43-yard field goal from Chris Boswell with 8:33 remaining in the second quarter and a 10-7 lead for the Steelers.
The Steelers forced a three-and-out on Las Vegas' next possession and drove to the Raiders' 24 on their next possession before stalling out and settling for another Boswell field goal, this one from 42 yards, for a 13-7 lead with 1:56 remaining in the first half.
The Raiders got the ball back and moved to midfield, but T.J. Watt got his second sack of the game on third down, forcing another Las Vegas punt to end the half.
Garoppolo had not been sacked in the Raiders' first two games. The Steelers got to him four times in this game. Watt's six sacks are the most by a Steelers player through three games in team history.
The Steelers forced a three-and-out by the Raiders on the opening possession of the second half, but Las Vegas punter A.J. Cole hit a booming punt that went out of bounds at the Pittsburgh 9 to flip the field.
It didn't matter, however, as Pickett connected with Pickens for a 32-yard gain on third-and-5 to get the ball out to midfield and set up a 57-yard field goal by Boswell that pushed the Steelers' lead to 16-7 early in the third quarter.
Watt again struck on Las Vegas' next possession, as he forced an errant pass by Garoppolo as he closed in. Garoppolo tried to lob the ball downfield to Jakobi Meyers, but Patrick Peterson beat him to the ball, intercepting it before going out of bounds at the Pittsburgh 19.
The Steelers drove 81 yards from there, getting chunk plays of 17 yards by Pickens, 16 yards on a screen by Jaylen Warren and a 17-yard run by Najee Harris before Pickett threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Freiermuth for a 23-7 lead with 3:56 remaining in the third quarter.
The Raiders went to a hurry-up offense the remainder of the game, but turned the ball over on downs early in the fourth quarter before driving 80 yards for a 2-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to Adams with 5:41 remaining. Adams caught 15 passes for 172 yards and two scores on 19 targets.
Garoppolo connected on a two-point conversion pass to Meyers to cut the Steelers' lead to 23-15. The Steelers tried to run more time off the clock, but Pickett's third-down pass deep down the middle to Freiermuth was broken up by Nate Hobbs and the Raiders got the ball back at their own 48.
The Raiders were stopped on fourth down and had Carlson kick a field goal, but DeMarvin Leal was penalized for a personal foul on the kick, giving the Raiders new life at the Pittsburgh 14. But the Raiders again failed to convert from there and kicked another field goal, this one from 26 yards to cut the lead to 23-18 with 2:22 remaining in the game.
"You've just got to hold them. That was the mindset," said linebacker Alex Highsmith "We knew we were probably going to go out again. But we needed to hold them. We weren't perfect by any means, but we took steps."
But the Steelers picked up one first down and forced the Raiders to use all three timeouts before punting the ball back to Las Vegas with 12 seconds remaining in the game before Wallace intercepted Garoppolo a second time to end it.
"That's our job to take the ball away and set the offense up to score points," said Wallace. "We want to put them on short fields as much as we can. When we're able to do that, it's good."