Steelers winners and losers vs. Seahawks

Pittsburgh Steelers football is back. The same goes for our weekly winner/loser lists. Highlights and low points of the team’s 32-25 preseason opener win over the Seattle Seahawks.

WINNERS

Mitch Trubisky– Trubisky ran the show beautifully the first two drives of the game. He displayed mobility and precision on the move, finding a wide-open Gunner Olszewski to his left on the Steelers’ opening possession. Trubisky also dodged a potential sack for a short run. Ben Roethlisberger’s lack of mobility was obvious but it’s nice to see a quarterback being able to create with his legs in a situation like this. Trubisky didn’t just keep his head above water. He basically cemented his starting spot in the regular season.

George Pickens – What fans saw Pickens do on his 26-yard TD is essentially what he did all camp. Pickens tracked the ball and put both feet in the back right corner of the end zone to give the Steelers a 14-0 first-half lead. Pickens showed strength in his hands and great effectiveness as a blocker, helping turn good runs into better ones. He has to work on his exit package, but he’s a killer in those jump-ball moments.

Joe Haeg – Don’t talk about offensive linemen too often, but Haeg was solid with the 2. Solid grounding in pass protection and although he faced saves, he edged out Dan Moore Jr. in this game. Haeg should easily be the team’s swing tackle and a stop-gap option if a starter misses a game or two. I expected a longtime veteran like Haeg to play well and he lived up to expectations.

Arthur Maulet – Maulet, like Haeg, is a fairly well-known and defined player at this point. But he still played well. He’s best against the run and when asked to play under the roads, including a low third stop on a tilt over the middle. He was steady on the edge against the run and blew a few WR bubble screens.

Anthony McFarland- Good outing in a good summer for McFarland and oh boy did he need it. He showed a vision and broke out and created when things fell apart. He finished the day with seven carries for 56 yards with a 24 long, staking out a 3rd-and-1 when it was all washed in front of him. Rookie Jaylen Warren ran hard but fumbled and McFarland should still be ahead of him on the depth chart.

Tre Norwood – Norwood was strong in the red zone in this game with multiple end zone breaks. The big time plays in important real estate. Norwood was used as a penny defender in training camp and his man-covering ability earns him a spot on the court this year, especially with other injuries in this DB room.

Steven Sims– Sims is a short/fast guy and someone who needs to make plays in the open grass. That’s what he did on Saturday night. He kicked things off with a 38-yard punt return down the left side and followed things up on a quick throw down the right side for 38 yards, creating open field. He capped off a good week of training with a solid performance inside a stadium. A path to 53 will be tough, but he’s preparing to land on the practice squad as insurance behind Gunner Olszewski.

Miles Boykin– Another receiver who came on strong and carried it over to Acrisure Stadium (ever used to that?). Boykin caught just two passes for 17 yards, but more importantly, made a few plays on special teams. Forcing a fumble on a poor call from the Seahawks punt returner and following that up with a tackle on kick coverage. With Anthony Miller sidelined with a shoulder injury, Boykin moved closer to that No. 6 WR spot.

Pressley Harvin III – I don’t often put in the winners column players who haven’t played. But Harvin joined Chris Boswell as specialists who didn’t see the pitch tonight. It’s definitely a good sign for Harvin’s spot on the roster. I thought he would have been there to see what he could do in a stadium. It helped Cameron Nizialek didn’t do a very good job either.

Kenny Pickett– I thought all the quarterbacks looked solid tonight in varying degrees, but Pickett was good in his NFL debut. Nothing flashy but it wasn’t necessary. I wanted him to take care of the football, look confident and controlled, and be on time with his shots. He was all of those things. It’s a solid foundation and something I’ll come away happy with for the first time.

I wrote that paragraph above before the Steelers’ last practice, with Pickett leading the Steelers down and connecting with Tyler Vaughns for the game-winning score. What a way to start things off. I can’t ask for anything more from Pickett’s debut.

LOSERS

Dan Moore Jr. – After a decent performance in camp, Moore had his hands full tonight. The Seahawks have tooled pass throwers and Moore was beaten by rookie Boye Mafe which led to a fumble from Mason Rudolph which he luckily recovered. Moore gets extra work alongside LG Kendrick Green. Hoping for a better release next week from him in what is a critical second year.

Run Defense – Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Yes, the Steelers were without their stars and playing with substitutes. Seattle too. Pittsburgh’s front seven struggled to get out of the blocks and into the football and didn’t fill the aisle well enough. Seattle had success on the field starting in the second quarter, finishing the day with over 150 yards and averaging over six yards per carry. On the plus side, the Steelers’ DBs were active and aggressive. This unfortunately resulted in injuries for Ahkello Witherspoon and Damontae Kazee. Hopefully both are minor as Karl Joseph could be eyeing a season-ending injury.

Matthew Durant – The good news is that Durant was healthy enough to play in this game. He missed the back half of this week’s training series with an unknown injury. And he entered the match ahead of Master Teague. But he didn’t do much with luck. He was blown up and crushed on a third play which led to Kenny Pickett being knocked down hard. His first carry ended in a loss of a yard before giving way to Master Teague, who outclassed him. Durant threw a nice block on a Pickett scrum late in the game, I’ll give him that.

Khalil Davis – I’m going to eat a plate of crow for tonight. Much more was expected of the Davis twins, Carlos and Khali, who both looked good in training camp. I paid close attention to Khalil tonight and saw him wash against the run time and time again, one of the reasons Pittsburgh lost the line of scrimmage up front. All of the top seven were disappointing from Mark Robinson (without his forced fumble off the edge) to Buddy Johnson and others. Davis at least finished on a high note with a big stick on the last play of the game.

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