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Steelers defeat Buccaneers, 27-17

TAMPA, Fla. – Success in preseason games is often not measured by wins and losses as much as it is did the team accomplish what it set out to do?

In the case of the Steelers' preseason opener Friday night here at Raymond James Stadium, it seems the mission was accomplished.

The Steelers got a pair of long touchdown passes, including one from Kenny Pickett in limited duty, in a 27-17 defeat of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers here Friday night in the preseason opener for both teams.

You can watch Friday's win over the Buccaneers on NFL+. Click here >>>

The first-team offense, which played en masse, looked like a well-oiled machine on its only possession.

Pickett completed 6 of his 7 passes for 70 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown pass to George Pickens on third-and-8.

Pickens came free on the short post, catching the ball at the 20, shaking off a defender, deking another and racing the final 20 yards into the end zone.


The Steelers' longest offensive touchdown all last season was from 31 yards out.

Pickett looked sharp on the drive, with his only incompletion coming when he was pressured while rolling to his right and tossed the ball at running back Jaylen Warren's feet.

He also connected with Diontae Johnson three times for 32 yards, posting a passer rating of 147.9 in his short time in the game.

The first-team defense rested a number of starters, Cam Heyward, Larry Ogunjobi, T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Patrick Peterson among them, but was equally as successful.

The Bucs managed just one first down on two possessions against the unit that started the game before giving way to additional backups.

Baker Mayfield, locked in a camp battle with Kyle Trask to be Tampa Bay's starting quarterback in 2023, led a touchdown drive on the Bucs' third possession following an interception thrown by Steelers' backup QB Mitch Trubisky.

Game action photos from the Week 1 preseason game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium

Tampa Bay went 59 yards in nine plays to score on a touchdown pass from Mayfield to Trey Palmer just over the outstretched hands of cornerback James Pierre.

But the lead was short-lived, as Isaiahh Loudermilk stuffed Keyshawn Vaughn for a 3-yard loss on fourth-and-1 at midfield, turning the ball over on downs to the Steelers.

That set up Anthony McFarland for a 14-yard touchdown run around the right end, aided by a Gunner Olszewski block to seal the outside midway through the second quarter for a 14-7 lead.

The Steelers looked like they would build on that lead, as safety Trenton Thompson did a nice job undercutting a Trask pass on Tampa Bay's next possession to intercept the ball at midfield, but a holding penalty and bad snap pushed the Steelers back and forced a punt with just under two minutes remaining in the half.

Inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski had a sack and the Steelers held the Bucs to a three-and-out to give Mason Rudolph a chance to put more points on the board before the half.

Taking over at the Pittsburgh 32 with 1:10 left in the half, Rudolph hit passes of 14 and 24 yards to Olszewski and Connor Heyward, respectively, then scrambled for 15 yards to set up a 30-yard BT Potter field goal as time expired and a 17-7 Steelers lead.

Rudolph then directed another field goal drive to open the second half, with Calvin Austin drawing a 38-yard pass interference penalty on the first play from scrimmage to help set up a 43-yard field goal from Potter to make it 20-7.

After another Tampa Bay punt – aided by a second-down sack by rookie Nick Herbig, who had 1.5 in the game – Rudolph put the Steelers ahead 27-7 with a 67-yard touchdown pass down the sideline on a go route to Calvin Austin midway through the third quarter.

Austin, a fourth-round draft pick who missed all of last season with a foot injury, had two receptions for 73 yards and two carries for 23 yards in his first career preseason game.

Rudolph completed 7 of 12 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown, while Trubisky was 1 of 4 for 10 yards and an interception.

Rookie Tanner Morgan, an undrafted free agent, played half of the third quarter and all of the fourth quarter.

You can watch Friday's win over the Buccaneers on NFL+. Click here >>>