Steelers win preseason opener on Kenny Pickett’s TD pass with 3 seconds left

If the preseason opener is any indication, the Pittsburgh Steelers won’t be the notoriously slow starters who took the field last year in Ben Roethlisberger’s final season.

With veterans Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph vying to be Roethlisberger’s successor, the offense got off to a strong start Saturday night, and first-round pick Kenny Pickett finished it with a touchdown pass in the final seconds for a 32-25 win over Seattle. Seahawks at Acrisure Stadium.

Trubisky started and led the Steelers in touchdowns on opening possession, which the offense failed to do in the final eight regular season games in 2021. Rudolph led in touchdowns and goals respectively. the field on the first two of his three possessions. It helped the Steelers take a 17-10 lead before players lower in the depth chart took the field in the second half.

Pickett played the second half, led a touchdown on his first possession and threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Vaughns with 3 seconds left to break a 25-25 tie.

On the first score, Pickett threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to running back Jaylen Warren and followed with a 2-point conversion pass to Connor Heyward – two of his fellow rookies – for a 25-17 lead.

Pickett was 13 of 15 for 95 yards.

Pickett took over with 10:37 left in the third quarter and the score was tied at 17-17. He was 5 of 5 for 33 yards on his opening drive. After running his seven-straight passing streak, Pickett was sacked for a 9-yard loss to end his second drive, and his third drive ended after four plays.


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His consecutive successful passing streak reached 10 before Pickett could connect with Christian Blake on the right side with less than three minutes left in the game. Pickett was sacked for the second time, this one an 8-yard loss on fourth-and-1 with 1:17 to go.

The Steelers got the ball a game later at Seattle 43 after a backsack by rookie Mark Robinson and a fumbled recovery by Tuzar Skipper. Pickett’s touchdown pass to Vaughns came one play after gaining 8 yards on a run and ending a five-play drive.

The start of the offense has been encouraging as the Steelers averaged 6.7 points in the first half last season, went five straight games without scoring a touchdown in the first quarter and totaled nine points in the first quarter in the last eight games of the regular season.

Working with an offense that did not include point guards Najee Harris, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth, Trubisky completed 4 of 7 passes for 63 yards and threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to gunner Olszewski .

Trubisky left after two sets. Rudolph was 9 of 15 for 93 yards and a nice 26-yard touchdown pass to second-round pick George Pickens. Rudolph played three full sets and one part of another.

Trubisky opened the game by leading the Steelers on a seven-play, 90-yard touchdown that was capped off by his 13-yard pass to a wide-open Olszewski in the left corner of the end zone. Olszewski also had a 25-yard catch-and-run to set up his score.

Trubisky completed 3 of 5 attempts for 47 yards on the drive. He opened with a 9-yard completion to Pickens. The Steelers converted a pair of third downs. Anthony McFarland, starting running back due to injuries to Harris and Benny Snell, gained 24 yards on a third-and-one. Facing a third and a 6 from Seattle 38, Trubisky found Olszewski on the line to win, and Olszewski kept running until he was knocked down at 13.

Trubisky generated no points on his second drive, but he moved the offense from 20 to Seattle 42. He opened with a play-action completion to rookie tight end Heyward for 16 yards. Trubisky then escaped a sack and showed his mobility as he turned the broken play into a four-yard gain. In the third and fourth, his rollover to Olszewski was too high and the Steelers had to throw.

Rudolph entered with 3:11 left in the first quarter after Steven Sims’ 38-yard punt return left the offense just 23 yards from the end zone. A missed block on the first snap caused Rudolph to have the ball knocked out of his grip. He recovered the ball for a loss of 10 yards. It led to a third-and-13 on the 33. Rudolph backed up and threw a rainbow pass to the right corner. The throw was perfect, as was the reception as Pickens kept both feet in bounds before going over the pylon, and the Steelers held a 14-0 lead after the extra point.

On the next possession, Rudolph led the Steelers 16 offense to the Seahawks 3, the drive went 17 plays and 8:22 before stalling and Nick Sciba threw a 21-yard field goal for a 17-3 lead. The short passing game was emphasized on this drive, and Rudolph completed 9, 8, 8, 6, 8, 10 and 9 yards. On the first goal of the 7, Miles Boykin could not hold back a pass in the end zone. On the third and goal of the 3, Rudolph threw into a crowd looking for Sims.

On defense, the Steelers were without Cameron Heyward, Tyson Alualu and Larry Ogunjobi up front, TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith at outside linebacker and free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The defense limited the Seahawks to three points on the first four possessions before Geno Smith scored on a 2-yard run with 21 seconds left in the first half, cutting the Steelers lead to 17-10.

McFarland led the Steelers with 56 rushing yards on seven carries. Warren added 34 yards on six attempts, and he added a team-record four receptions for 30 yards.

Joe Rutter is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Joe by email at jrutter@triblive.com or through Twitter .

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