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The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

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The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

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Pickett Shows Promise with Steelers Win Over Raiders

Recap of Pittsburgh Steelers at Las Vegas Raiders
Sarah Seader
Weekly Professional Football Recap

The Steelers prepared all week for their second consecutive prime time game, as they were set to take on the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday Night Football. This was the first ever regular season game at Allegiant Stadium, the Raiders new home stomping ground, and also the host to this year’s Super Bowl.  The game between the two 1-1 teams was set to kickoff at 8:20 p.m.

The game started out with back-to-back stops by each of the defenses, and the game gave off an early feeling of the old Steelers vs. Raiders rivalry games.  Pittsburgh’s offensive struggles continued early on, as they failed to get a first down on their second drive of the day, forcing them to punt it back to Las Vegas for the second time in just as many drives.

Vegas would put together a couple first downs and begin to move the ball, for the first time from either team.  T.J. Watt was inches away from stripping Vegas running back, Josh Jacobs, before Jacobs was ruled down before the ball came out.  Three plays later, the Raiders were faced with a 4th and inches, standing only 32 yards away from the endzone, and antsy to get on the board.  With neither team’s offense showing much promise, the Raiders decided to go for it, and not settle for a field goal.  4th and inches makes most players and fans believe they were about to run the football, Jimmy Garoppolo, quarterback for the Raiders, dropped back and faked the handoff, and looked downfield to his favorite receiver, Davante Adams, who came down with the catch near the goal line and fell into the endzone for the first touchdown of the game.  Pittsburgh’s defense was crowding the line of scrimmage, thinking they had to prevent the run from advancing past the first down marker.  Even announcer Cris Collinsworth said, “will he hand it off or keep it himself?” suggesting they were bound to run the ball.  The Steelers decided to give safety Minkah Fitzpatrick a break on the play, and that proved to bite them as they let a 32-yard shot down field put the first seven points on the board for the opposing team, with just over seven minutes left in the first quarter.

Now, the Steelers faced their first deficit of the night and needed to find an answer on offense, and they did exactly that.  Three plays into the drive, on a 3rd and 7 that had Steeler fans on their feet, Kenny Pickett stepped back and flung a 50-yard bomb to second-year receiver Calvin Austin, who took it the rest of the way to the endzone for the 72-yard Pittsburgh Steelers touchdown.  The confidence and trust that Kenny showed in his receiver was enough to bring a smile to any Pittsburgh supporter, and now the game was all tied up at seven a piece.  Just one minute after giving up the first score of the game, the Steelers answered back with their second 70+ yard touchdown in the last two weeks, breaking the ice on offense.

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After back-to-back three and outs by both offenses once again, the Raiders finally managed to get the ball back onto the Steelers side of the field, with just over 12 minutes to go in the first half.  However, on 2nd and 10, and pressure coming, Jimmy Garoppolo threw a ball across the middle of the field that was intended for tight end, Michael Mayar, but was intercepted by Steelers cornerback, Levi Wallace, which put a stop to the Raiders drive.  It was Garoppolo’s fourth interception of the year thus far.

The Steelers got the ball with good field positioning in what was a tie game, and the opportunity to take the first lead was up for grabs.  The first play of the drive was a solid pass to tight end Pat Friermuth for a gain of 14 yards.  That would be the longest play of the 8-play drive, which included a 3rd down scramble by Kenny Pickett that put the Steelers into field goal range.  The drive ended with a 43-yard field goal by Steelers kicker Chris Boswell, giving Pittsburgh a 10-7 lead.

The Raiders had a quick three and out and punted the ball right back to the Steelers, who would start their drive at their own 22-yard line.  The first play was a play action, rollout pass on the sidelines to wide receiver George Pickens, done to perfection.  The fluid motion of Pickett rolling out of the pocket to his off hand makes Steelers fans wonder, how do we make it look so hard at times?

The next two plays accounted for no yards, and the 3rd down pass was incomplete; but the Steelers were bailed out by a pass interference call that kept the drive alive, handing the Steelers a free first down.  An explosive run by Jaylen Warren on the next play gave them another first down, followed by two plays that accounted for six more yards and left the Steelers with a 3rd and 4 from the Raiders’ 31-yard line.  Pickett dropped back and could not find anyone open, but managed to escape the pocket and scramble for the first down and more, making it all the way down to the 4-yard line, before noticing a flag in the backfield on Geroge Pickens. This caused for a redo of the play and a loss of five yards, making it 3rd and 9 now, from the 36-yard line.  Once again, Pickett chose to display his agility by taking matters into his own hands, spinning left, and scrambling away again for a gain of 10, to the 26-yard line, another first down.  This had every Steelers fan in the stadium, and trust me there were a lot, on their feet, showing their passion.

The Steelers chose to take a conservative approach before heading into the half, as they lost four yards over the next two plays, and ran the ball on a 3rd and 14 from the 30-yard line to line up a 42-yard field goal by Chris Boswell with under two minutes to play in the first half.  Neither team managed to move the ball before the half, leaving the score at 13-7 in favor of Pittsburgh going into halftime, with the Raiders set to receive the ball first in the second half.

The Raiders would open the second half the same way they ended the first half, by punting the football back to the Steelers before even crossing midfield.  Kenny Pickett looked good on this next drive, as he seemed to get more and more comfortable as the game went on.  He managed to put together a few good, short throws to receivers Allen Robinson and George Pickens, even while getting hit by defenders just about every time he dropped back to pass.  The completion to George Pickens gained 32 yards and put the Steelers onto their side of the field, but after that play seemed to have come to a halt.  Facing a 4th and 7 at the Raiders’ 39-yard line, the Steelers elected to go for a long, 57-yard field goal by Boswell once again. He absolutely nailed it, right down the middle, with plenty of leg behind it. It was now 16-7, Steelers.

The Raiders’ offense looked to be on the verge of another three and out, until Jimmy Garoppolo found his favorite receiver, once again; Davante Adams caught the ball for a gain of 18 yards and the longest play for the Vegas offense, since the 32-yard touchdown back in the first quarter.  With the momentum finally moving towards the Raiders after the big gain, it seemed just a matter of time before they found a way to answer on offense.  Jimmy Garoppolo would go on to throw an incompletion on a dump off to Josh Jacobs on 1st down, followed by a 2nd down that was full of pressure, with Jimmy rushing to get rid of the football.  Play action, he dropped back and looked to throw.  The pass protection held at first, but T.J. Watt could not be contained for long. Watt broke open and rushed towards Garoppolo, who forced a throw down the right sideline, intended for Jacobi Meyers, but was intercepted by the first year Steeler, veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson, all the way down near the Steelers’ own 20-yard line.  Steelers regained possession.

On the next drive, Kenny Pickett looked phenomenal compared to what we have seen so far.  He started the drive off with a play action pass to George Pickens across the middle, who ran for a gain of 17 yards right off the rip.  Two plays later, Pickett would find Jaylen Warren on a dump off pass that would account for 16 more yards, advancing the ball onto their side of the field, at the 44-yard line.  The next throw was Kenny’s most confident of the night and he stepped back and fired a laser across the middle to tight end Pat Friermuth for a gain of 14 yards.  With the defense now expecting a pass, Matt Canada decided to go with a run to the outside with Najee Harris on first down. Harris broke free for his longest run of the night with a gain of 17 yards, getting all the way down to the 13-yard line.  With the stands looking like an army of Terrible Towels, Kenny Pickett ran a bootleg play action and threw a lob pass to Friermuth in the back left side of the endzone for a Steelers touchdown. This extended the Steeler’s lead to 23-7, late in the third quarter.  This was the first time in Kenny Pickett’s career where he had two touchdown passes in the same game.

The Raiders would not go down without a fight, as they were able to put together an 11-play, 80 yard touchdown drive with just over five minutes left in the game.  The drive was capped off with the second touchdown of the night from Davante Adams and a two-point conversion to make it an 8-point game.  Adams ended the game with an astonishing 13 receptions, 172 yards, and 2 touchdowns on 20 targets.

The next drive from the Steelers would advance just two yards and they punted the ball back to Vegas after just 66 seconds of possession.  Punter Pressley Harvin proved to have another good game this week, as he punted six times for an average of 53.8 yards per punt, with his longest of 63 yards.  He has been kicking the ball really well these past two weeks after being called out by Head Coach Mike Tomlin.

The Raiders would move the ball 44 yards in just over two minutes on their next drive, but were held to back-to-back incompletions from Garoppolo on 2nd and 3rd downs from the 26-yard line. With the whole stadium believing they were ready to go for it on 4th and 4, and considering the Raiders were down by 8, Head Coach Josh McDaniels decided to kick a field goal with just over two minutes left in the game. This cut the lead down to five, meaning that either way the Raiders were going to need a touchdown.  The decision not to go for it and kick a field goal instead, was definitely a questionable one.

All the Steelers had to do was get a first down, and then they would be able to run almost all of the game clock down and get in victory formation for the win.  Two plays in, on a 3rd and 2, Kenny Pickett ran a perfect play action, rollout to Allen Robinson for a gain of six and a first down, which took the game to the 2-minute warning. Although the Steelers, being the Steelers of course, on the next three run plays totaled -3 yards, leading to a 4th and 13 with 23 seconds left, giving the Raiders one last chance to pull out some kind of miracle.

With 12 seconds on the clock and no timeouts for the Raiders, Jimmy Garoppolo threw it deep for Davante Adams, but was intercepted by Levi Wallace, giving Wallace his second pick of the night, and Jimmy’s third of the game.  The Steelers would indeed take victory formation, take a knee, and end the game, with the final score being 23-18, Steelers. Kenny Pickett ended the game 16/28 (57%), 235 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions.  He also ran the ball three times for a total of 11 yards, including a clutch 3rd down run which set up a field goal.  He showed signs of confidence and poise throughout this game and looked much better than previous weeks.  Whether that was more because of the Raiders defense being a bottom-5 ranked group, or because Pickett is getting comfortable, beggars cannot be choosers and we will take what we can get.

There was a report earlier in the week that Matt Canada was going to be working exclusively with Kenny. So that could have had something to do with the better performance, but I think it was just a matter of time before he figured it out.  With two weeks left until the Steelers bye week, these next few games are going to be crucial for the potential of the season and the job security that Pickett has at the quarterback position.

The defense did their part in attributing to the win, as they had 4 sacks, 3 interceptions, and big stops on multiple drives.  They were able to apply pressure to the quarterback all night long, and only allowed last year’s leading rusher, Josh Jacobs, to 62 yards rushing.  T.J. Watt had 2 sacks and 3 QB hits, making his sack total 6 through three games, which leads the league thus far.

Jimmy Garoppolo was 28/44 (64%), 324 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions.  The Raiders fell to 1-2 and will travel to Los Angeles to play the Chargers on Sunday at 4:00 p.m.  The Steelers were able to escape with their second straight win, improve to 2-1, and can move their focus to their game next Sunday in Houston, against the Texans.  That game kicks off at 1:00 p.m.

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About the Contributors
Andrew White, Sports Editor

Andrew White is the Sports Editor and serves as a staff writer for the CalTimes.  He has a deeply engraved passion for sports and loves to inform the community about the local teams, both on and off campus. He is a Senior here at PennWest California, majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Business Management.

Growing up in Brownsville, PA, Andrew is a die-hard Yinzer and will always have a place in his heart for the city of Pittsburgh and where he came from.  He serves as a play-by-play commentator for California’s basketball teams and hopes to land a career in Broadcasting, Public Relations, or Media Writing down the line, with his main goal being finding success as a play-by-play commentator.

Andrew is involved in CUTV, WCAL, CalTimes, and dips his hands in some graphic design work as well. He will be graduating in May and looks forward to his next steps of his career past PennWest California. He is the son of Tami and Stephen White of Brownsville, PA.

Sarah Seader, Editor-in-Chief

Sarah Seader is the Editor-in-Chief and a Staff Writer for the CalTimes and a Senior Honors Student at PennWest California, pursuing two degrees in Business Administration Management and Management Information Systems with a Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship as well as a Data Science Certificate. Sarah serves as the PennWest California Student Trustee.

Sarah is involved serving as the President of the SAI Board of Directors, President of DECA, President of Alpha Lambda Delta (ALD), Student Government Executive Board serving as Vice President, Vice President of Finance Club, Accounting Club Treasurer, and serves as the Treasurer on the Student Honors Advisory Board (SHAB).

Sarah is also a member of Women United, CUTV, WCAL, New Life, STAND, American Sign Language (ASL) Club, American Marketing Association (AMA), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Student Activities Board (SAB), Vulcan Gaming Club, President's Leadership Academy (PLA), The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), and serves as a Peer Mentor and Honors Coach.

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