Pickett solid in debut
By Dan Scifo
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH — Kenny Pickett threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Vaughns with 3 seconds to play and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 32-25 on Saturday night in the preseason opener for both teams.
Pickett, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2022, is competing with Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph to replace retired two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers starting quarterback.
Roethlisberger guided the franchise for 18 seasons and led the Steelers to three Super Bowl appearances.
Pickett, the former University of Pittsburgh standout, played the second half and finished 13 of 15 for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Pickett was sacked, forcing a turnover on downs, but had a chance to win the game when Pittsburgh’s Mark Robinson sacked Seattle’s Drew Lock and forced a fumble on the next play.
Pickett responded with a five-play, 43-yard drive capped by his touchdown pass to Vaughns. He received a loud ovation and chants of “Kenny, Kenny, Kenny” when he first took the field in the third quarter and before the eventual winning drive.
Pickett could certainly hear the appreciation from the fans.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t,” Pickett said. “It was an incredible feeling. It was really cool. It was special.”
Lock and Geno Smith are in a competition to replace Russell Wilson as Seattle’s starting quarterback. Wilson was traded to Denver in the offseason. It’s the first quarterback competition for the Seahawks since 2012, when Wilson won the job as a rookie.
Smith and Lock didn’t have DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett on Saturday. Smith played the first half, going 10 of 15 for 101 yards and a rushing touchdown. Lock was 11 of 15 with 102 yards and two scores, but a crucial fumble that led to Pittsburgh’s winning touchdown.
“Both quarterbacks were efficient,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Geno could’ve been perfect and we moved the ball pretty good with Drew.”
All three Steelers quarterbacks threw touchdown passes. Trubisky and Rudolph threw touchdown passes in the first quarter, while Pickett converted on his first-ever NFL series and led the Steelers on a game-winning drive.
Trubisky, who played most of the first quarter, finished 4 of 7 for 63 yards with a touchdown. Rudolph ended the half, going 9 of 15 for 93 yards and a score.
Trubisky, was the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, while Rudolph served as Roethlisberger’s backup the past four seasons.
Pickett, who threw for 42 touchdowns and led the University of Pittsburgh to the program’s first ACC title, finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting and was the ACC Player of the Year in 2021.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was happy with his three quarterbacks after one preseason game.
“They moved their units,” Tomlin said. “They did the informal things associated with the position from a leadership and communication standpoint. It was a good first time out for all three.”
Smith, entering his fourth season with the Seahawks, briefly filled in last season when Wilson went down with a hand injury. He kept Seattle competitive, but also made critical mistakes in losses against Pittsburgh and New Orleans.
Lock, entering his fourth season, was part of the deal Seattle received in return for sending Wilson to the Broncos. Lock has started 21 of 24 games, but has been inconsistent through his first three seasons.
The Seahawks punted on the first two series of the game, including a three-and-out, but Smith settled in the second quarter with a pair of scoring drives.
Smith ran an effective two-minute drill at the end of the half, as he led the Seahawks on a nine-play, 61-yard touchdown series in 1:27. He eluded a sack on third-and-2 and later scored a 2-yard touchdown to pull the Seahawks within 17-10 at halftime.
Lock twice tied the game in the second half with touchdown drives, but his late fourth-quarter fumble proved costly for the Seahawks.
“I could’ve handled that better,” Lock said. “As a quarterback, you’re able to fix (protection). I’ll always take it on the chest and I could’ve been better there.”
Trubisky was backed up to his 10-yard line to start the game, but he responded by leading the Steelers on a seven-play, 90-yard drive in less than three minutes. Trubisky moved the offense to midfield on his second series before the Steelers were forced to punt.
Rudolph played three series, leading the Steelers to a touchdown, field goal and three-and-out.
Rudolph recovered his own fumble and was sacked on his first snap, but he tossed a 26-yard touchdown pass to George Pickens two plays later. Rudolph used 17 plays and nearly nine minutes to lead the Steelers to the 3-yard line on his second drive. He nearly threw an interception midway through the drive, but the series ended with a 21-yard field goal.
Pickett led the Steelers on a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in his first series.
Seahawks: Wide receiver Cody Thompson left with a shoulder injury. Cornerback Artie Burns, the Steelers former first-round draft pick, was held out with a groin injury.
Steelers: Safety Karl Joseph left with an ankle injury, while CB Ahkello Witherspoon sustained a shoulder injury. … Pittsburgh also held out RB Najee Harris (foot), WR Diontae Johnson (hip), WR Chase Claypool (shoulder), TE Pat Freiermuth (hamstring), RB Benny Snell (knee), LB Alex Highsmith (ribs) and OL Kevin Dotson (ankle) among others.
Seahawks: Host Chicago on Thursday.
Steelers: Visit Jacksonville next Saturday.