Steelers vs. Buccaneers score, takeaways: Kenny Pickett, young WRs shine; Baker Mayfield outduels Kyle Trask
Pittsburgh parlayed its strong training camp into a successful preseason opener
Fans who have been following the Pittsburgh Steelers' training camp probably weren't surprised with what transpired during their 27-17 win over the Buccaneers in both teams' preseason opener.
In many ways, Friday night's game was a microcosm of Pittsburgh's first three weeks of camp. Kenny Pickett continued to build on his rapport with George Pickens, as the duo connected on the game's first touchdown in what was the only series for the starting offense.
Several other camp norms were on full display in Tampa. Calvin Austin III continued his solid summer with a 67-yard touchdown catch from Mason Rudolph. Rookie Nick Herbig led the Steelers' defense with 1.5 sacks, while fellow linebacker and recent free agent signee Kwon Alexander made his mark with several big hits.
For the Buccaneers, the big focus on Friday night was the position battle between Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. Mayfield started the game and went 8 of 9 for 63 yards that included a nifty touchdown pass to rookie Trey Palmer. Trask went 6 of 10 for 99 yards with an interception and was sacked three times.
Here's a closer look at what transpired from Tampa.
Pickett, Steelers starting offense as good as advertised
Pittsburgh's offense has been the buzz of training camp, and for good reason. Pickett has taken significant strides following a rookie season that saw him engineer four game-winning drives. The Steelers' offense was fluid on its only drive Friday night, moving 83 yards on 10 plays and taking just over five minutes off the clock.
Pickett completed all but one of his seven attempts for 70 yards on the drive. His favorite target on the drive was Diontae Johnson, who caught three passes for 32 yards. Pickett was not only accurate, but he was also decisive while completing passes on the run as well as in the pocket.
Several Steelers backups step up
Tight end Connor Heyward and Anthony McFarland, two players who have had notable camps so far, both made several nice plays in Friday night. Heyward had a 24-yard grab that set up the Steelers' last points of the first half. McFarland showed off his speed on a 14-yard touchdown run that gave Pittsburgh a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
We'd be remiss not to give a second mention to Austin, who burned Buccaneers cornerback Don Gardner on what was his first career touchdown reception. The speedy Austin is looking to add splash plays the Steelers offense this season after missing his entire rookie season with an injury.
Rookie tight end Darnell Washington, another Steelers' rookie who has turned heads this summer, made his first NFL catch on Friday night. He also showed off his blocking prowess, something that was his calling card during his time at Georgia.
Pittsburgh's defensive line also had a strong showing. Led by rookie Keeanu Benton, the unit held the Buccaneers to just 66 yards on 26 carries. Benton had an impressive tackle on a fourth-and-1 play to end a Buccaneers' drive in the first half.
Battle of the quarterbacks
Mayfield won his individual matchup against Trask, who will start the Buccaneers' second preseason game next Saturday against the Jets. While he was largely accurate, Mayfield missed a wide open teammate downfield and instead checked the ball off to running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who was hit hard by Alexander.
Mayfield showed what he can do, however, on his touchdown pass to Palmer, a sixth-round pick who caught 71 passes for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns during his final season at Nebraska.
Gill steps up
Buccaneers linebacker Cam Gill, who missed the entire 2022 season after suffering a Lisfranc injury during the preseason, led Tampa Bay with 1.5 sacks on Friday night. A four-year veteran who was credited with a half sack of Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LV, Gill is fighting to earn a spot on the Buccaneers' 53-man roster.
Duke Dawson appears to have suffered an injury for the Steelers. The Steelers have been hit by injuries in the secondary.
John Wolford in for the Buccaneers. Trask went 6 of 10 for 99 yards with an interception.
Tanner Morgan is in the Steelers. Rudolph went 7 of 12 for 132 yards and his 67-yard bomb to Austin.
Nick Herbig with a nice sack on third down to force a Buccaneers punt. Herbig has had a good camp so far and was part of a sack earlier in the quarter with DeMarvin Leal.
Rudolph hits Calvin Austin on a bomb as Steelers add to their lead. Austin has been making plays throughout the summer. He's looking to make a big impact this year after missing his entire rookie season with an injury.
Steelers add to their lead with Potter's second FG of this night, this one from 43 yards. Each Steelers QB had led the team on scoring drives.
Mason Rudolph starting the second half and gets things started with a completion to rookie Darnell Washington.
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