PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Tomlin will meet with the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ confidence before announcing who will be the starting quarterback in Cincinnati in two weeks.
Mitch Trubisky presented a compelling enough case to make sure the debate is short.
Effortless behind an offensive line that remains a work in progress, Trubisky capped a solid if unspectacular preseason with 80 seconds of precision, driving a clear 92-yard touchdown to end the first half of a 19-9 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday .
Trubisky’s final throw in a busy August it was a 6 yard dart to Steven Sims for giving the Steelers a 16-point lead and likely erasing any doubt about who will run the field with the starting offense against the defending AFC North champion Bengals on Sept. 11. Trubisky finished the preseason 24 of 34 for 283 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
“I feel confident about where I’m at,” Trubisky said.
They should, even with rookie Kenny Pickett doing his best to apply pressure. Pickett went 10 for 14 for 90 yards while playing most of the second half and completed 80 percent (29 of 36) of his passes during the preseason, with three touchdowns and no picks.
“If it’s me (as a starter), I’m going to play as hard as I can and get as good as I can,” Pickett said. “If it’s Mitch or Mason (Rudolph), whoever it is, I’m going to back them up and be ready when my number is called and be the best QB on the sideline that I can be.”
Pickett remains very much a part of Pittsburgh’s future. Trubisky, however, appears to be part of the present. Five months after signing a two-year contract with Pittsburgh in hopes of reviving his career, Trubisky’s professionalism and play since the start of training camp gave Tomlin little reason to hand the keys to the franchise to the 20th overall pick in the draft as quickly.
Tomlin is tired of fielding questions about the quarterback position, perhaps because it happened so rarely during his first 15 years on the job with Roethlisberger’s name written in permanent marker on the depth chart. Clarity will come sometime in the next few days, though Tomlin called the situation “a good problem to have.”
There are also a handful of not-so-good ones.
The starting offensive line, booed after a poor halftime performance last week against Jacksonville, was once again sloppy and disorganized at times. Twice the Steelers started a drive inside the Detroit 30 in the first half. Twice they failed to get a first down and had to settle for one of Chris Boswell’s four field goals.
Tomlin played most of his starters on both sides of the ball in the first half and nearly cost the Steelers after All-Pro linebacker TJ Watt and Pro Bowl wide receiver Diontae Johnson both left with injuries.
Watt, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, injured his left knee after taking a cut block from Detroit’s TJ Hockenson in the second quarter. Hockenson appeared to apologize to Watt immediately after the play, and Watt stayed in the game for a short time before being pulled.
Johnson, who signed a lucrative extension earlier this month, also left in the first half with a shoulder injury after landing awkwardly after a nice 38-yard reception on the sideline.
Tomlin said both injuries appeared to be minor and likely could have returned if the game counted, avoiding the risk of playing them in a meaningless game.
“You can’t box without a fight,” Tomlin said.
The Lions (1-2), who have spent the last month getting a rare turn in the spotlight as part of the “Hard Knocks” documentaries, have a slightly lower quarterback competition. With starter Jared Goff getting the day off, Tim Boyle and David Blough tried to provide some clarity at the backup position.
Neither of them exactly stood out. Boyle completed just 5 of 15 passes for 64 yards while working in the first half. He also threw an interception directly to Pittsburgh Cornerback Cam Sutton, who didn’t even have to move as Boyle hit Sutton right between the 2nd and 0 on his jersey as he sat in zone coverage.
Bough was a little more effective while working against players who hope to still have NFL jobs after teams cut their rosters to 53 on Tuesday afternoon. Bough finished 17 of 32 for 160 yards, incl a 5-yard touchdown strike to Quintez Cephus with 30 seconds left.
“I think (the backup situation) became very clear,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “I think we got answers and I’ll leave it at that.”
The Lions could be in the market for a backup quarterback this week. There could be one available in Pittsburgh, where Rudolph looks very likely to be the third in the three-way match.
Lions: Welcome to Philadelphia at Ford Field on September 11th.
Steelers: Start the season on the road for the eighth straight year when they head to Cincinnati. The Bengals swept the season series from Pittsburgh last fall.
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