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Steelers Analysis

Steelers Takeaways: Pickett Balls Out, Herbig Looks Like Stud



Steelers QB Kenny Pickett

The Pittsburgh Steelers took the field for the first time in 2023 with Kenny Pickett and the first team offense playing a bit, and they pulled out a 27-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a solid game overall. But what could be taken away from the game? Here are some of those takeaways.

Kenny Pickett, First Team Sharp

The Steelers first-team offense is the story of the game. Kenny Pickett led the first team on a 10-play, 83-yard drive for a touchdown. It had basically everything you could have wanted from the team right from the outset. Pickett looked poised and ready to go from a number of standpoints.

Pickett’s pocket movement and accuracy were excellent. Diontae Johnson and George Pickens provided the sparks that the team needed to see out of them. Pickens adding in some YAC on his touchdown is a new but exciting thing that the team needed to really wanted to see out of him.

There is not much to complain about. They faced the second-team defense for the Buccaneers but took care of business as they should have from the outset. It looked like a first-team offense against a second-team defense. That is all that can be asked of that team.

Benton, Herbig Look Like Stars

The Wisconsin men looked like they belonged at a high level right away. Nick Herbig came on in the second half and terrorized the Buccaneers’ offensive line. He racked up two sacks and a number of pressures outside of that with two different moves. Herbig has elite burst, so if the bag is as deep as it looks, it is hard to not expect him to get some real playing time this season given what he is showing.

Meanwhile, Keeanu Benton left the game with an ankle injury, but before that, he looked like the best defensive lineman on the team. Benton’s burst and heavy hands showed up all night. He only finished with three tackles, but he had at least three or four pressures to his name. Benton might be the starting nose tackle. If he plays like he did on Friday, I’m not sure why he would not.

Issues at Backup Center and Cornerback

If there is one thing that I take away from this game, the depth at backup center, and backup cornerback could become an issue. Center is the obvious one, as Kendrick Green had a disastrous day at center. There were a number of plays where he was blown back off the ball, but moreover, his bad snap put the icing on that. Nate Herbig looked fine and the same with Ryan McCollum. But I’m not sure there was someone who instilled confidence there.

Meanwhile, it was not a good day for the backup outside cornerbacks. James Pierre, Luq Barcoo, Isaiah Dunn, and Madre Harper each had issues that popped up. With the injury to Cory Trice, Pierre is now the top backup and needs to be relied upon. Duke Dawson’s knee injury looms here as well. I would not be surprised to see the Steelers put some feelers out for a veteran cornerback to come in and provide depth.

Broderick Jones Looks Solid

Aside from his one allowed sack where he was called for holding, the debut game for Broderick Jones was really good. The Steelers knew they would have a project in pass protection, but he passed the tests of the Buccaneers edge rushers. It was certainly good enough to where I see really no reason the team should not let him get some reps against first-team guys in training camp this coming week.

In the run game, Jones and Darnell Washington proved to be pluses. Yet again, that is not a surprise but it is always good to confirm the priors with the first actual NFL action. Jones looks like a guy who will struggle out of the gate in some areas, but he is not that far off as a rookie tackle.

This Offense Can be Explosive

You best believe that Matt Canada wanted to make some kind of statement here tonight. It appears that the Steelers’ offense can indeed be explosive. The team scored two touchdowns from 33 yards and 67 yards out. They both would have been the longest touchdowns of the entire season last year. In fact, the Steelers only scored two touchdowns outside of 20 yards last year, and they matched it tonight.

But where the Steelers really made noise was with Calvin Austin III. His speed translated into pads in practice and he looked phenomenal tonight as well. He does not have to garner some huge role, but if he can be a sparkplug that creates explosive plays, that is exactly what they need him to be.

Inside Linebackers Step Up

The inside linebackers have proven to be the surprise of training camp, and they did it again against the Buccaneers. There is not a lot to complain about from the play of the starters to the depth linebackers. The only worry here is that there were a number of injuries that popped up with Chapelle Russell and Nick Kwiatkoski going down.

However, Kwon Alexander looked like a star and perhaps the best linebacker on the team. He flew around the field, making a number of big hits and run stuffs. Mark Robinson was all over the place and made an impact on the game. Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts looked the part. This was as good a debut as you could have imagined for the inside linebackers.

Anthony McFarland Continues Strong Summer

Anthony McFarland came into training camp as a guy who would be playing for a spot on the team with other candidates in there for the RB3 spot, but he has shown his ability as a receiver all of training camp. He cemented himself into that spot, and continued that string of performances.

McFarland’s touchdown run showcased some pressing of the line of scrimmage that he had not previously shown. It seems that he will make this roster and could even have a role that is carved out for him in the offense if he continues to play at this level.

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