It wasn’t pretty, but the Steelers left Jacksonville with a 16-15 win in Pittsburgh’s second preseason game. Down 15-10 late, Pittsburgh took the lead when Mason Rudolph hit Tyler Snead for the game-winning score. The Steelers then held on for the win when Ryan Santoso missed a 57-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
Pittsburgh moved to 2-0 on the preseason, while the Jaguars lost their third preseason game in as many outings. Here’s a breakdown of the most notable things that transpired in Jacksonville on Saturday night.
Pickett makes the most of limited reps
Kenny Pickett only had two possessions Saturday night, but he made them count. The reigning ACC Player of the Year went 6 of 7 (his only incompletion was a spike to stop the clock) for 76 yards. On Pittsburgh’s final drive of the first half, Pickett hit Diontae Johnson for 17 yards, Pat Freiermuth for gains of 11 and 24 yards, and Benny Snell for 11 yards on a play that gave the Steelers a 7-6 lead.
In two preseason games, Pickett is a combined 19 of 22 for 171 yards with three touchdowns and no picks. While Mitch Trubisky remains the team’s No. 1 quarterback, it’s clear that Pickett has supplanted himself as the Steelers’ No. 2 option with one week left in the preseason.
Poised Lawrence leads two scoring drives
Doug Pederson’s handprints were all over the Jaguars’ drives with Trevor Lawrence under center. The Jaguars’ second-year quarterback did an effective job running Pederson’s methodical, short passing attack. He went 14 of 21 for 133 yards while leading the Jaguars on a pair of scoring drives. His 16-yard completion to Marvin Jones on a third-down play kept the Jaguars’ second drive alive. A 12-yard run by Lawrence on another third down later in the drive set up Santoso’s 53-yard field goal.
Lawrence then led the Jaguars on a 15-play, 83-yard drive that took over eight minutes off the clock. He went 5 of 7 on the drive that included two key completions to Jones and a 22-yard completion to Christian Kirk on a third-and-nine play from the Steelers’ 34-yard-line. Two unsuccessful rushing attempts ultimately contributed to the Jaguars settling for another field goal and a 6-0 lead.
While he didn’t get into the end zone, Lawrence did everything else Saturday while showing considerable poise. He also received solid play from an offensive line that includes veterans Tyler Shatley, Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor, newcomer and fellow veteran Brandon Scherff, and rookie third-round pick Luke Fortner.
Offensive line stymies Steelers offense
A unit that struggled for vast stretches of the 2021 season, Pittsburgh’s offensive line didn’t help Trubisky’s cause during his three series under center. Trubisky was pressured on three of his five drop backs on Pittsburgh’s first drive, which ended with Chris Boswell’s missed field goal attempt from 53 yards. Trubisky was sacked by Arden Key (who beat left tackle Dan Moore Jr. on an inside rush) on Pittsburgh’s second drive, resulting in a punt. A holding call on Johnson contributed to another Pressley Harvin III punt on the Steelers’ third drive.
Like Trubisky, Pickett fell victim to subpar line play when he entered the game with six minutes left in the first half. A holding call on James Daniels wiped out a 19-yard completion to Chase Claypool that would have given Pittsburgh a first down near midfield. Pittsburgh’s also struggled to open holes for the Steelers’ backs, as Pittsburgh ran for just nine yards on seven carries during the game’s first 30 minutes.
The line continued to struggle in the second half, allowing the Jaguars to take an 8-7 lead after netting a safety off of Rudolph (more on that in a second).
The return of ‘Sacksonville’
Mike Tomlin said that the Jaguars’ defensive front would present a good challenge for his offensive line. Tomlin was right, as Jacksonville’s front-seven thoroughly outplayed Pittsburgh’s line. Led by former Pro Bowler Josh Allen, the Jaguars’ front also includes Key, rookie first-round pick Travon Walker and Roy Robertson-Harris. Jacksonville is hoping for big things out of Walker, who capped off his college career with a season-high seven quarterback pressures during Georgia’s win over Alabama in the CFP Championship Game.
The unit gave the Jaguars the lead when Rudolph was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in a safety less than six minutes into the second half.
Rudolph, who found himself at the center of trade speculation during the week, led the Steelers on a pair of scoring drives while leading Pittsburgh’s offense during the second half. Like Pickett did in the first half, Rudolph took advantage of a big play from his defense after Justin Layne picked off E.J. Perry’s pass in Steelers territory. Rudolph quickly marched the Steelers downfield with completions of 25 and 21 yards to Tyler Vaughns, who is fighting to earn a spot on either the 53-man roster or Pittsburgh’s practice squad. Rudolph then hit Snead for the game-winning score with 1:56 left. He finished the game with 127 yards on 17 of 21 passing.
Steelers D-line shines
The Steelers’ defensive line had a tumultuous 2021 season. Injuries crippled the unit while playing a large role in the Steelers finishing last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. The unit showed significant promise Saturday, with newcomers Larry Ogunjobi and rookie DeMarvin Leal making their presences felt. The Steelers also received solid play from Tyson Alualu, who missed most of last season with an injury. Pittsburgh also received solid play by safety Terrell Edmunds, who made several tackles at the line of scrimmage. Edmunds may be asked to help the Steelers solve their lingering issue at inside linebacker.
The Steelers will host the Lions next Sunday in their preseason finale. The Jaguars will travel to Atlanta next Saturday for their fourth and final game of the preseason.