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Kenny Pickett And Others Shine As Steelers Win Falcons In Preseason

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Even when Atlanta coach Arthur Smith retaliated with his backups, Mike Tomlin remained steadfast in his choice to start quarterback Kenny Pickett and other Pittsburgh players.

“I just think it’s difficult to box without sparring,” Tomlin said.

The Steelers dominated the Falcons 24-0 on Thursday night in the last preseason game for both teams. Pickett directed two touchdown drives and demonstrated that he and the Pittsburgh starters are prepared for big games.

In his brief but effective playing time, Pickett completed 4 of 4 passes for 86 yards to cap the only drives he directed. Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren also scored on the ground to finish the drives. With Pickett at the helm, the Steelers (3-0) scored touchdowns on each of their five preseason drives.

“I think it’s proof that the hard work we put in paid off in the preseason,” Pickett said.

Tomlin claimed that Smith holding out his starters had no bearing on his decision to continue with Pickett and other offensive starters for two series.

“I don’t care what the Joneses do,” Tomlin said. “We’re going to do what we do.”

Before Harris scored from the one on the first possession, the second-year quarterback completed throws of 33 yards to Diontae Johnson and 35 yards to George Pickens. Pickens, a former star at the University of Georgia, reached up for the sideline catch inside the 5 despite Natrone Brooks of the Falcons giving him close coverage.

“They’re both great players,” said Pickett of Johnson and Pickens. “I wanted to make sure I did my part and put the ball out there for them.”

Before Warren scored on an 8-yard run to end Pittsburgh’s second possession, Pickett had a 16-yard pass to Harris.

When pitted against Pittsburgh’s first-team groups, Atlanta’s reserves were outclassed on both sides of the ball. Smith emphasized that he will go into the regular season with confidence despite this.

“I feel the team has got an impressive feel to it in all phases,” Smith said, adding the Steelers’ big plays early in the game and a Falcons late red-zone turnover made for “a bad recipe.”

On Atlanta’s opening drive, backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke was sacked by T.J. Watt for a loss of 7 yards as quarterback Desmond Ridder watched from the sidelines. On Atlanta’s opening snap, linebacker Elandon Roberts dropped running back Godwin Igwebuike, costing the team 4 yards.

After two drives led to a 14-0 advantage, Pickett was replaced by Mitch Trubisky. On Pittsburgh’s third possession, backup running back Anthony McFarland Jr. produced a 31-yard run that led to Chris Boswell’s 38-yard field goal attempt.

In the second quarter, a 5-yard scoring run by McFarland increased the margin to 24-0.

With about two minutes left in the half, Pittsburgh made its first punt.

When Steelers free safety Kenny Robinson recovered a fumble by Falcons running back Carlos Washington Jr. at Pittsburgh’s 8-yard line in the third quarter, the Falcons (1-1-1) missed a chance to score.

As the third quarterback on the Falcons roster, behind Ridder and Heinicke, Logan Woodside made one more effort to make the team. In the second quarter, Woodside took over and played the remainder of the game, completing 24 of 31 passes for 196 yards. He received four dismissals.

“I thought he played well,” Smith said.

Late in the game, linebacker Quincy Roche struck Woodside, causing him to fumble. For Pittsburgh, Toby Ndukwe made a comeback at the Atlanta 25.

On Tuesday, teams must reduce their rosters to 53 players.

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