Tomlin got what he wanted, even if it did nothing to advance the decision-making process, because against the Seahawks, Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, and Kenny Pickett all played well. Not perfectly, but there were no turnovers, no delay of game penalties, no burned timeouts. Each of them threw at least one touchdown pass, each of them finished 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 the darling of the fan base, put the cherry on top by leading the five-play, 43-yard drive, which he capped with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Vaughns with three. seconds remain to provide the deciding points.
“You know, he moved his group,” Tomlin said immediately after being asked to rate Pickett. “He played situational football. He showed a competitive spirit. A lot of good things to build from the first performance.
“I could say the same about all three (quarterbacks), to be honest with you. They moved their units. They did the informal things associated with the position of leadership and communication point of view. They were engaged. It was a good first. time out for all three. Obviously we’ll fight it tomorrow and evaluate it that way.”
The evaluation of Tomlin and his staff will eventually focus on a defense that allowed 159 yards rushing with a 6.1 average per carry, plus had some journey quarterbacks in Geno Smith and Drew Lock combine to complete 70 percent of their passes to a group of 13 different. receivers, six of whom had at least one catch of 15-or-more yards. The Steelers had leads of 14-0 and 17-3 in the first half only to find themselves in a 25-25 tie with 13:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The fact that Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alex Highsmith, Larry Ogunjobi, TJ Watt, Tyson Alualu and Cam Heyward were held out of the game doesn’t matter to Tomlin, but it still matters when you put the defense’s performance into perspective. Certainly, more can be expected from that group once those aforementioned players get their hands back into that pile.
But what Trubisky, Rudolph, and Pickett did was unusual in that it’s not often there are three quarterbacks on one team all after passer ratings above 100, while each man also did something special in terms of playing the position at the NFL level.
Trubisky took his group down the field on the game’s opening possession — 75 yards in seven plays — and the ball ended up in the end zone on his 13-yard pass to Gunner Olszewski. Rudolph also led a touchdown drive on his first series, this one covering 23 yards in three plays and ending with a 26-yard pass to George Pickens, and the next time the offense took the field, it marched 83 yards in 17 plays for a touchdown. 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 came up with the loose ball at the Seattle 43-yard line, the Steelers offense got a chance to win the game.
Pickett ran for 4 yards on first down. Mataeo Durant ran for 5 to set up a third-and-1. Pickett then completed a pass to Cody White for 2 yards and a fresh set of downs with 33 seconds left. Pickett scrambled again, this time for 8 yards, and then on the next play he got the ball into the right flat to Vaughns, who broke a Josh Valentine-Turner tackle and sprinted toward the end zone and dove across the goal line for the. decisive landing.
“I liked the matchup, I liked the look we had, just a free approach,” Pickett said of the final play after he was roughed up by defensive lineman Myles Adams. “I was just thinking, eh [Tyler Vaughns] the ball, and we’ll go out and let [Nick Sciba] put it down for 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 else, as the preseason opener didn’t do much to separate these quarterbacks.