If you were hoping to see the Pittsburgh Steelers come firing out of the gate with a phenomenal preseason performance, I am happy to say that you got your wish. From start to finish, Mike Tomlin's team completely manhandled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road in their first preseason game of 2023.
The Steelers kicked things off with a great defensive series. Despite resting numerous starters like T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Larry Ogunjobi, Pittsburgh forced a quick three-and-out after allowing just 4 yards.
From there, things got even better. Kenny Pickett marched his team down the field for the first score of the game. Pickett went 6 of 7 for 70 yards and a touchdown before Tomlin decided he had seen enough. The drive was capped off by a dart from Pickett to George Pickens for a 33-yard TD.
In addition to a stellar performance by Pickett, Anthony McFarland turned heads with his impressive touchdown run -- showing vision and speed in a 14-yard scamper for the score. Calvin Austin III also impressed with his speed. He recorded a 67-yard receiving touchdown and nearly 100 yards from scrimmage despite limited action, via ESPN stats.
Defensively, 2023 fourth-round pick, Nick Herbig, stole the show. The electric pass rusher recorded 1.5 sacks, 1 tackle for a loss, and 2 quarterback hits in a short stint before he was pulled from the game. Herbig had some really impressive rushes, and despite his lack of size, he looks like a player who will do just fine as an edge defender in the NFL. Keeanu Benton also looked good on defense before exiting the game to get his ankle checked out.
Steelers showed everything we hoped to see in the opener
We can't say this often, but the Pittsburgh Steelers showed just about everything you would wish to see from them in the first preseason game -- both on offense and defense. The most important thing to note was how impressive Pickett and the first-team offense looked. Though the Buccaneers didn't have all of their starters on defense, the offense had a nearly flawless touchdown drive to open the game.
Additionally, many of the young players and recent draft picks looked sharp in this contest. Players like Nick Herbig, Anthony McFarland, Calvin Austin III, and DeMarvin Leal were some of the standout performers.
Eventually, the Buccaneers clawed their way back into the game to make it a 27-17 contest, but this game was never as close as the score would lead you to believe. One of the only negatives in this game for the Steelers was the injuries. In addition to Benton getting hobbled up, CB Duke Dawson suffered a potentially serious knee injury with just two minutes remaining.
You hate to see injuries occur in exhibition action when players are fighting for their jobs. Sadly, this is part of the game. Still, Pittsburgh Steelers fans can take comfort in an outstanding all-around performance by their team in the preseason opener against the Buccaneers.