Tomlin got what he wanted even if it didn’t help making a decision because against the Seahawks, Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett all played well. Not perfect, but there were no turnovers, no penalty delays, no burnt timeouts. Each threw at least one touchdown pass, each ended with a passer rating in the triple digits, and Rudolph and Pickett each led more than one scoring drive. And of course, Pickett, the No. 1 pick and fanbase darling, put the icing on the cake by leading the five-play, 43-yard drive that he capped with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Vaughns with three seconds left. to give the decisive points.
“You know, he moved his group,” Tomlin said immediately after being asked to evaluate Pickett. “He played situational football. He showed a competitive spirit. Lots of good things to build on from the first performance point of view.
“I could say the same about all three (quarterbacks), to be honest. They moved their units. They did the casual stuff associated with the position from a leadership and communications standpoint. They were involved. It was a good first time-out for all three. Obviously we’ll go through it tomorrow and evaluate it that way.”
The evaluation of Tomlin and his staff will ultimately focus on a defense that allowed 159 yards at an average of 6.1 per carry, plus a pair of journeyman quarterbacks in Geno Smith and Drew Lock combined to make 70 percent of their passes to a group. of 13 different ones to complete. receivers, six of whom had at least one catch of 15 yards or more. The Steelers led 14-0 and 17-3 in the first half, but were 25-25 in the fourth quarter with 13:32 remaining.
The fact that Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alex Highsmith, Larry Ogunjobi, TJ Watt, Tyson Alualu and Cam Heyward were kept out of the game doesn’t matter to Tomlin, but it’s still important to put the defense’s performance in perspective. Certainly, more can be expected from that group once those aforementioned players have put their hands back into that pile.
But what Trubisky, Rudolph, and Pickett did was unusual because it’s not often three quarterbacks on one team who all have a passer score over 100, while each man also did something special in terms of playing the position at the NFL level. .
Trubisky took his group on the field on opening possession of the game — 75 yards in seven games — and the ball landed in the endzone based on his 13-yard pass to Gunner Olszewski. Rudolph also directed a touchdown drive in his first series, it covered 23 yards in three plays and ended with a 26-yard pass to George Pickens, and the next time the offense took the field, it marched 83 yards in 17 plays to tack. to go on a field goal. And then Pickett lived the fantasy.
It was made possible by a strip/sack by rookie inside linebacker Mark Robinson on Drew Lock, and when Tuzar Skipper figured out the loose ball at Seattle’s 43-yard line, the Steelers offense got a chance to win the game.
Pickett clambered down 4 yards on the first. Mataeo Durant ran for 5 to set up a third-and-1. Pickett then completed a pass to Cody White for 2 yards and another run of downs with 33 seconds left. Pickett scrambled again, this time for 8 yards, and on the next play he got the ball in the right flat to Vaughns, who broke a tackle from Josh Valentine-Turner and sprinted to the end zone and dove over the goal line for the decisive landing.
“I liked the match-up, I loved the look we had, just free entry,” Pickett said of the final piece, before being rocked by defensive lineman Myles Adams. “I was just thinking, get [Tyler Vaughns] the ball, and we go out of bounds and let [Nick Sciba] put it on the win. But Tyler is a great player. I gave him a chance and he made a move and scored.”
And now it’s back to Saint Vincent College, back to the drawing board. Time to try something different, because the preseason opener didn’t do much to set these quarterbacks apart.