Pittsburgh Steelers football is back. Also our weekly winners/losers lists. Preseason highlights and lowlights from the team’s 32-25 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Mitch Trubisky – Trubisky put on a nice show on the first two drives of the game. He showed movement and accuracy on the move, finding a wide-open gunner Olszewski to his left on the Steelers’ opening possession. Trubisky also avoided a sack for a short scramble. Ben Roethlisberger’s lack of mobility was glaring, but it’s nice to see a quarterback build with legs in a situation like that. Trubisky didn’t keep his head above water. He cemented his starting spot in the regular season.
George Pickens – Fans saw what Pickens did on his 26-yard TD. Pickens tracked the ball down and got both feet inside the back right corner of the end zone to give the Steelers a 14-0 lead in the first half. Pickens showed strength in his hands and more efficiency as a blocker, helping turn good runs into great ones. He needs to work on his release set, but he’s a killer in those jump-ball moments.
Joe Heck – Don’t talk about offensive linemen often, but Hack ran solid with 2. A strong anchor in the pass defense and even though he faced backups, Dan Moore Jr. outplayed him in this game. Hack should easily be the team’s swing tackle and a stopgap option if a starter misses a game or two. I expected a long time veteran like Hack to play well and he lived up to expectations.
Arthur Moulet – Moulette, like Hack, is a well-known and defined player at this point. But he played well. He’s excellent against the run and when asked to make plays under routes, including a third-down stop on a slant up the middle. He was consistent on the edge against the run and blew two WR bubble screens.
Anthony McFarland – McFarland and oh boy did he need a nice summer getaway. He showed vision and explosiveness and created when things broke down. He finished the day with seven rushes for 56 yards with 24 carries, controlling a 3rd-and-1 when everything washed out in front of him. Rookie Jaylen Warren ran with power but fumbled and McFarland should still be ahead of him on the depth chart.
Trey Norwood – Norwood was strong in the red zone in this game with several end zone breaks. Big time plays in prime real estate. Norwood was used as a dime defender in training camp and his man-cover ability earns him a spot on the field this year, especially with some other injuries in that DB room.
Steven Sims – Sims is a small/quick guy and someone who needs to play on open grass. That’s what he did on Saturday night. He started things off with a 38-yard punt return down the left side and followed things up with a quick jet run down the right side for 38 yards, creating an open field. He capped off a good week of training with a solid performance in a stadium. A path to 53 will be tough, but he’s setting himself up to land on the practice squad as insurance behind Gunner Olszewski.
Miles Boykin – Another receiver came on strong and took it to Agrisure Stadium (get used to it yet?). Boykin caught just two passes for 17 yards, but importantly, made a couple plays on special teams. A fumble by the Seahawks’ punt returner followed by a tackle in kick coverage. With Anthony Miller sidelined by a shoulder injury, Boykin moved one step closer to that #6 WR spot.
Presley Harvin III – I don’t often include players I don’t play in the winners list. But Harvin joins the specialists tonight with Chris Boswell sidelined. This certainly bodes well for Harvin’s roster spot. I thought he would have come out to see what he could do inside a stadium. Cameron Nizialek didn’t do a good job.
Kenny Pickett – I thought all the quarterbacks were solid to varying degrees tonight, but Pickett was good in his NFL debut. Nothing flashy but it doesn’t need to be. I wanted him to take care of the football, be confident and in control, and be on time with his throws. He is all of those things. It’s a solid foundation and I walk away happy for the first time.
In the column above before the Steelers’ final drive, I wrote that Pickett led the Steelers downfield and connected with Tyler Vance for the game-winning score. What a way to start things off. Nothing more could be asked from Pickett’s introduction.
Don Moore Jr. – After a decent game in camp, Moore had his hands full tonight. The Seahawks have doulsey pass rushers, and Moore was beaten by rookie Boy Moff, leading to a Mason Rudolph fumble, which he fortunately recovered. Moore will get extra work along with LG Kendrick Green. I expect a great next week from him in an important sophomore year.
Run Defense – Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Yes, the Steelers played without their stars, with backups. So is Seattle. Pittsburgh’s front seven struggled to get off the blocks and march to the football, and didn’t fill the lane well enough. Seattle dominated on the ground from the second quarter on, finishing the day with more than 150 yards and averaging more than six yards per carry. On the plus side, the Steelers DBs were active and aggressive. This unfortunately led to injuries to Ahkello Witherspoon and Damonte Causey. Hopefully both are minor given Carl Joseph’s season-ending injury.
Matteo Durant – The good news is that Durant was healthy enough to play in this game. He missed the back half of practice this week with an undisclosed injury. And he got into the game ahead of Master Deig. But he made little of the opportunity. He was sacked on a third down play that led to Kenny Pickett being thrown hard. His first carry went for a one-yard loss before giving way to Master Deke, who outplayed him. Durant made a nice block on a picket scramble late in the game, I’ll give him that.
Khalil Davis – I’ll eat a plate of crow tonight. Much more is expected from the Davis twins, Carlos and Kali, who both looked good in training camp. I paid special attention to Khalil tonight and found him repeatedly washed out against the run time, one of the reasons Pittsburgh lost the line of scrimmage up front. Mark Robinson (whose fumble was not free off the edge) was short of a full front seven to Buddy Johnson and others. Davis at least ended the game on a high note with a big stick on the final play.