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Kenny Pickett stars in debut, leads Steelers to preseason win

Kenny Pickett threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Vaughns with three seconds to play and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 32-25 Saturday night.

Pickett, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2022, is competing with Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph to replace retired two-time Super Bowl winner Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers’ starting quarterback.

Roethlisberger guided the franchise for 18 seasons and led the Steelers to three Super Bowl appearances.

Pickett, the former University of Pittsburgh standout, played the second half and finished 13 of 15 for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Pickett was sacked, forcing a turnover on downs, but had a chance to win the game when Pittsburgh’s Mark Robinson sacked Seattle’s Drew Lock and forced a fumble on the next play.

Pickett responded with a five-play, 43-yard drive capped by his touchdown pass to Vaughns. He received a loud ovation and chants of “Kenny, Kenny, Kenny” when he first took the field in the third quarter and before the eventual winning drive.

Lock and Geno Smith are in a competition to replace Russell Wilson as Seattle’s starting quarterback. Wilson was traded to Denver in the offseason. It’s the first quarterback competition for the Seahawks since 2012, when Wilson won the job as a rookie.

Smith and Lock didn’t have DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett on Saturday. Smith played the first half, going 10 of 15 for 101 yards and a rushing touchdown. Lock was 11 of 15 with 102 yards and two scores, but a crucial fumble that led to Pittsburgh’s winning touchdown.

All three Steelers quarterbacks threw touchdown passes. Trubisky and Rudolph threw touchdown passes in the first quarter, while Pickett converted on his first NFL series and led the Steelers on a game-winning drive.

Trubisky, who played most of the first quarter, finished 4 of 7 for 63 yards with a touchdown. Rudolph ended the half, going 9 of 15 for 93 yards and a score.

Trubisky was the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, while Rudolph served as Roethlisberger’s backup the past four seasons.

Pickett, who threw for 42 touchdowns and led the University of Pittsburgh to the program’s first ACC title, finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting and was the ACC Player of the Year in 2021.

Smith, entering his fourth season with the Seahawks, briefly filled in last season when Wilson went down with a hand injury. He kept Seattle competitive, but also made critical mistakes in losses against Pittsburgh and New Orleans.

Lock, entering his fourth season, was part of the deal Seattle received in return for sending Wilson to the Broncos. Lock has started 21 of 24 games, but has been inconsistent through his first three seasons.

The Seahawks punted on the first two series of the game, including a three-and-out, but Smith settled in the second quarter with a pair of scoring drives.

Smith ran an effective two-minute drill at the end of the half, as he led the Seahawks on a nine-play, 61-yard touchdown series in 1:27. He eluded a sack on third-and-2 and later scored a 2-yard touchdown to pull the Seahawks within 17-10 at halftime.

Lock twice tied the game in the second half with touchdown drives. Bo Melton started the first scoring drive with a 39-yard reception and Dareke Young caught two passes, a third down reception and a 3-yard touchdown. DeeJay Dallas closed a five-play, 51-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown and Travis Homer tied the game at 25-25 with a 2-point conversion catch.

Lock’s late fourth-quarter fumble proved costly for the Seahawks.

Trubisky was backed up to his 10-yard line to start the game, but he responded by leading the Steelers on a seven-play, 90-yard drive in less than three minutes.

Anthony McFarland Jr. broke off a 24-yard run on third-and-1 and Gunner Olszewski caught back-to-back passes on the drive, a 25-yarder on third-and-1 and a 13-yard touchdown to close the series.

Trubisky moved the offense to midfield on his second series before the Steelers were forced to punt.

Rudolph played three series, leading the Steelers to a touchdown, field goal and three-and-out.

Rudolph recovered his own fumble and was sacked on his first snap, but he tossed a 26-yard touchdown pass to George Pickens two plays later. Rudolph used 17 plays and nearly nine minutes to lead the Steelers to the 3-yard line on his second drive. He nearly threw an interception midway through the drive, but the series ended with a 21-yard field goal.

Pickett led the Steelers on a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in his first series. Steven Sims broke off a 38-yard run and Pickett later ended the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Warren off a play action. He connected on a 2-point pass to Connor Heyward to make it 25-17.

Reporting by The Associated Press.


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