Five possessions, five touchdowns. That is what the starting offense of the Steelers did in three preseason games, and they ended exhibition play with a bang.
The offense continues their dominance
Kenny Pickett gave a heelish wink and flipped a massive bird to doubters who said he couldn’t throw deep, completing passes of 33 and 35 yards to Diontae Johnson and George Pickens, respectively, on the opening drive of the game. Johnson’s catch came on a third down, and Pickens was his usual self, making his trademark “Oh my God, how does he keep doing this?” catch of the game on a 50-50 ball.
Najee Harris got more of a workload, as well, and the drive was capped off with a one-yard touchdown run from the third-year running back. Harris totaled 18 yards on four carries, and also had a nice catch and run off a screen pass, which is more than we had seen from the Steelers’ running back in the first two preseason tilts. The other running backs got involved, as well. Jaylen Warren had a fantastic second-effort touchdown run that made the game 14-0, and Anthony McFarland had 55 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Connor Heyward was used all over the field- fullback-H-back, tight end- he got multiple touches both as a runner and receiver, and he showed the ability he has as the offense’s big Swiss army knife.
Kenny Pickett went 4-of-4 for 86 yards, putting a bow on his preseason with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. The Steelers’ signal-caller went 13-of-15 for 199 yards and two touchdowns in three preseason games, leaving fans with endless hope and excitement for what he could do in his sophomore campaign.
The defense shuts out the Falcons
As exciting as the offense has been over the last month, the defense has been a force in their own right. Elandon Roberts had a fantastic game, zooming into the backfield and thumping a Falcons’ running back for a tackle for loss, and punching the gap later on in the first half to pick up a sack. It’s been talked about a lot throughout the preseason, but this inside linebacking group is going to be very good.
The legend of Nick Herbig continued to grow, as the rookie phenom registered another sack, giving him at least one sack in all three preseason contests. Markus Golden had another respectable showing, getting multiple pressures on the Falcons’ quarterbacks, one of which forced an errant throw that was nearly intercepted by Patrick Peterson.
The reserve players made several plays, as well. Mark Robinson forced a fumble that was recovered by Kenny Robinson. Armon Watts very nearly recorded a sack, but Falcons quarterback Logan Woodside got rid of the ball just before his knee hit the ground. Quincy Roche had a strip sack late in the fourth quarter that put an exclamation mark on the dominant evening for the defense as they shut out Atlanta.
This is the most complete we have seen a Steelers team entering the regular season in quite sometime. Should both units even come close to performing the way we have seen over the last three weeks, this is a team that can not only make the playoffs, but win playoff games and play deep into January.