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Steelers Offense Makes Splash in 27-17 Win over Buccaneers



Steelers Kenny Pickett

TAMPA, Florida — The first-team offense got the Pittsburgh Steelers started, and young players continued to stand out in a 27-17 preseason rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Friday night.

Kenny Pickett and the entire first-team offense started the game for the Steelers and played just one offensive series, but made a big impact.

Pickett confidently led the offense down the field, converting on a pair of first downs before finding Pickens on a 3rd and 8 that knifed him through the Tampa defense and free into the end zone.

The first-team offense went 83 yards in 10 plays, and Pickett completed six of his seven, throwing the other one away. He completed three passes to Diontae Johnson for 32 yards, one to Pat Freiermuth for six yards and the scoring play to Pickens from 33 yards.

RELATED: Kenny Pickett Shines, Notches TD in First Preseason Drive of 2023

After the starters yielded, the young stars on the offense shined. Running back Anthony McFarland scored on a 14-yard run in the second quarter. That drive was boosted by a pair of Calvin Austin III jet sweeps.

Austin got it done in the more traditional wide receiver role, as well, hauling in a 67-yard scoring pass from Mason Rudolph in the this quarter.

WATCH: Calvin Austin III Burns Tampa Bay Defense

Defensively, most of the Steelers veteran regulars and a handful of banged-up players did not participate. They were particularly thin in the secondary, where Minkah Fitzpatrick, Patrick Peterson, Joey Porter Jr. (ankle), Keanu Neal (undisclosed) and Damontae Kazee (ankle) all did not play.

Despite that, the Steelers largely minimized battling Tampa quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. Mayfield, who started, got one touchdown after a questionable personal foul penalty against Kwon Alexander kept a drive alive. 

Mayfield found Trey Palmer in the back of the end zone behind the outstretched arms of fill-in starting cornerback James Pierre.

But the defense allowed no more significant damage. Rookies Keeanu Benton and Nick Herbig made impacts, with Benton recording three tackles and one for a loss and Herbig racking up two sacks despite not playing in the first half.

Safety Trenton Thompson, who just joined the team last week, intercepted Trask on his first drive for the Steelers’ only takeaway.

The Buccaneers finally got back to the end zone when John Wolford found tight end Payne Durham in the front of the end zone in front of safety Jalen Elliott with two minutes to play. Elliott had one full practice with the team after being signed this week.

Following Pickett, Mitch Trubisky was a very pedestrian 1 of 4 for 10 yards and an interception of a ball that went off the hands of Cody White. Rudolph was much better, completing 7 of 12 for 132 yards, though 67 of that came on Austin’s score. Rookie Tanner Morgan played most of the second half, completing 4 of 7 for 35 yards and an interception.

Austin finished as the leading rusher with just 23 yards. McFarland had three for 18 before giving way to Darius Hagans (4 for 13) and Greg Bell (6 for 11) in what was a pedestrian day for the rushing offense. Najee Harris did not have a carry.

Rookie first-round tackle Broderick Jones played with the second team and had a quiet night. He gave up one sack, late in the fourth quarter, one of three on the game charged to Pittsburgh.

The Steelers will return to Pittsburgh for their Week 2 preseason game a week from Saturday, when they host the Buffalo Bills.

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