Pickett simply wants to find a way to win

The Steelers' first-team offense scored touchdowns on all five possessions it was on the field in the preseason and second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating, making him the first quarterback in over two decades to do so in the preseason.

But none of that will matter when the Steelers host the San Francisco 49ers Sunday at Acrisure Stadium to kick off the 2023 regular season.

The games, and the stats, all start to matter for real now. But there's only one stat that really matters to Pickett and the Steelers.

"I'm not looking to prove anything," Pickett said of entering his second season in the NFL. "I'm looking to go out there and win, find a way to win. This will be a battle for four quarters. That's what we're expecting. Go in there, bring my best and be ready for a four-quarter battle."

After not having any adversity in the preseason, when Pickett completed 13 of 15 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns over three games, the second-year quarterback knows that things won't come that easily against what was the NFL's top defense a year ago in both scoring and yards allowed.

That's one reason why he isn't as concerned about how things will look on Sunday as much as he is getting a victory.

Adversity is going to arise against San Francisco. It will just be a matter of how the Steelers deal with it.

"It's going to happen. It's the National Football League," Pickett said of that adversity. "You're going against the best defense in the league. It's going to happen. I don't think anyone will bat an eye on this team. Just continue to put your best foot forward, work hard and go from there."

He also knows that while the preseason success was great, it was happening against opponents that weren't necessarily game planning to face the Steelers.

The Steelers didn't do a lot of game planning, either.

The preseason was more about Pickett reading what the defense was giving him and distributing the ball accordingly.

How good was he with that?

"I try to be 100 percent. That's the goal," Pickett said. "I really don't know what the acceptable rate is. I try to be a lot better than 75 percent. I try to be 100 percent. When you're playing in the NFL, they try to get you with looks and stuff.

"Each team is game planning now, so they're going to show you complex looks. They're going to show you more pre-snap, post-snap. I've just got to be disciplined with what I'm seeing and try to get the ball to the right guy."

If he continues to do that, he expects the success will come, especially throwing to the talented group of receivers the Steelers have assembled.

• Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

The Steelers get speedy second-year receiver Calvin Austin back and added veteran wide receiver Allen Robinson to a group that already includes Diontae Johnson and second-year pro George Pickens along with tight end Pat Freiermuth and running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren.

There are plenty of targets. Pickett just has to find the right one on a regular basis.

That's what he did in the preseason and wants to continue into the regular season.

"Executed," Pickett said of what worked in the preseason. "Execution is the name of the game. Seeing the right looks and putting the ball to the guys and having our athletes go do what they do best. That's something we have to continue to do."

If that happens and the Steelers get the victory, Pickett will be happy in his first home opener as the quarterback of the Steelers.

He didn't get that opportunity a year ago when he was second on the depth chart behind Mitch Trubisky on the depth chart to open the season.

"Definitely excited," Pickett said. "We've had a lot of prep that have gone into it. We have a couple of days left. I know everyone is excited to back to Acrisure in Week 1."

If it sounds like the talk of a leader, it's because that's what Pickett's teammates see in him. Earlier this week, he was voted by his teammates as the Steelers' lone offensive captain.

It's something Pickett doesn't take lightly.

"I take a lot of pride in it," he said. "'m proud to be the captain of this offense, this team, and the quarterback of this team. I just want to do what I can to put us in the best position to win."