The Pittsburgh Steelers got exactly what they were hoping for from their top rookies in Week 1 of the preseason. Here’s how they performed in their first NFL action.
I knew this was just an exhibition football game, but I was a bit nervous to see how things would shape out for Kenny Pickett in his debut performance. Mike Tomlin confirmed earlier this week that Pickett wouldn’t get his first look on the field until after Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph had already taken the stage, and I was worried that the rookie would get pummeled behind the second and third-string offensive line.
Fortunately, things turned out quite well for Pittsburgh’s top rookies. The Steelers hosted the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night for their first preseason game, and both Kenny Pickett and George Pickens shined in their opening performances on the NFL stage.
To start the game, Trubisky took demand of the offense early and gave us reason for optimism that he could be that quality stop-gap starter we were hoping for when the team signed him. He and Mason Rudolph were responsible for the team’s first two touchdowns and 17 first-half points before Pickett took over in quarter number three.
Early in the contest, George Pickens was every bit as impressive as advertised. The talented rookie wide receiver hauled in 3 receptions for 43 yards and an impressive toe-tapping touchdown before Mike Tomlin decided his day was done. But Pickens wasn’t the only rookie who impressed.
In the second half, it was the Kenny Pickett show. Despite not being aided by any of the Steelers top offensive weapons, Pickett opened the contest by completing his first nine passes. On his opening drive alone, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick went 5 of 5 with a touchdown pass to Jaylen Warren.
Late in the contest, Pickett was sacked on fourth and inches trying to make a play on a rollout. Fortunately, rookie linebacker Mark Robinson forced a fumble on the following play and the Steelers recovered. With just over a minute remaining in the contest, this allowed Pickett just enough time to cap off his impressive debut with a walk-off touchdown — ending the game in a 32-25 Steelers victory.
Steelers rookies made the most of their opportunities
There shouldn’t be a fan out there who was disappointed with the performance of either Kenny Pickett or George Pickens in their preseason debut against the Seahawks. Unsurprisingly, Pickens was electrifying with his ability to adjust to the football — something we have gotten quite used to seeing at Steelers training camp.
While I can’t fault Pickens for much of anything during his opening performance, I was perhaps more excited by what I saw from Pickett.
The Steelers rookie quarterback was far from perfect. He lost 17 yards on two sacks taken, and he didn’t really take any deep shots down the field. However, this was a much better performance than I envisioned from a quarterback who has had some bad practices mixed in with some good outings at camp.
Pickett finished the contest completing 13 of 15 passes for 95 yards to go with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He also chipped in 3 carries for 16 yards on the ground, via ESPN stats. While I would love to see his yards per attempt go up (and I think it will in time), I thought he seemed poised in his first NFL game and made good decisions with the football.
Both Trubisky and Rudolph didn’t do too bad in their own right, but Pickett’s 132.6 passer rating was the highest mark of any quarterback for either team on the night. He put the exclamation point on his first performance with a game-winning touchdown pass after the score was tied 25-25. The Steelers would win 32-25.
Pickett still has a long way to go and a lot to prove, but I’m very excited by what I saw from both him and fellow rookie George Pickens in their first NFL preseason performance. I’m excited to see what these two players will do next week.