For the first time in the Super Bowl era, the Raiders opened the season 2-0 versus teams that were both in the playoffs the previous season (Baltimore, Pittsburgh).
Sunday's win in Pittsburgh was spurred by sterling play from quarterback Derek Carr. At a pivotal moment in the contest, the signal-caller dialed up a perfect deep shot to former first-round pick Henry Ruggs III.
After seeing the Steelers cut their lead to two points midway through the fourth quarter, Carr faced a third-and-10 from his own 39-yard-line. A brief pump-fake to tight end Darren Waller helped the secondary bite, and Ruggs streaked deep and hauled in a 61-yard TD.
"That's one of the reasons we took Ruggs," coach Jon Gruden said of the former first-round pick, via The Athletic. "He blew the top off in Arrowhead (last season) and helped us win that game and against the Jets.
"Not many guys can run that fast and track that ball."
Ruggs' TD gave the Raiders a nine-point lead and put pressure back on the Steelers to match. Ben Roethlisberger & Co. came up short.
Ruggs led the Raiders with 113 receiving yards, marking his second career game with 100-plus receiving yards (118 in Week 5, 2020 at K.C., as Gruden mentioned). Given Ruggs' standing as the top receiver in a loaded 2020 draft class, which included Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, etc., the Raiders have been waiting for the second-year pro to stack big games.
"The deep route was dialed up, and we got the coverage we wanted," Ruggs said. "It was a moon ball, and I had to run and go get it. It feels good to be a guy that can turn a game around at any time. To make a play like to seal the game is just ... that's the feeling I like."
The Raiders started 2-0 last season as well before stumbling down the stretch. This season's fast start feels different with the weapons on offense coupled with Carr's willingness to take shots at any point in the contest. Ruggs becoming an every-week weapon alongside Waller, Bryan Edwards and Hunter Renfrow would make the Raiders offense even more dangerous.