Watch: Pickett hits Pickens in-stride for preseason touchdown

Steel City Underground will pick an exceptional play of the game as a highlight each week of the Steelers 2023 preseason. Stay tuned as we hand-select the very best from the Black and Gold!

On Friday night, at Raymond James Stadium, the Pittsburgh Steelers squared off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their first preseason game of the 2023 NFL season. While preseason is considered exhibition play, the Steelers were able to get off to a hot start thanks to a successful opening offensive series that showed glimpses of what the upcoming 2023 NFL regular season may hold for Pittsburgh fans.

To say that the “first unit” looked good would indicate that the players in the game on the opening series are the presumptive season starters, and that would not be completely accurate. What is more accurate is that second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett will be the Steelers’ starting quarterback and his top receiving target will be George Pickens. Dialed-in, Pickett didn’t look like he was running a preseason offense; he was poised and saw the entire field. His ongoing rapport with Pickens was on display, as was his ability to find other targets.

Leading up to the big touchdown play, Pickett moved around as necessary to find Diontae Johnson on an eight-yard pass for completion and then hit tight end Pat Freiermuth for six more yards. An 11-yard pass to Johnson extended the drive and converted a third-and-10 for a new set of downs. Following a nice run by Jaylen Warren, Johnson caught the ball for a 13-yard completion. On second-and-8, Yaya Diaby and Mike Green zeroed in on Pickett, but the young quarterback safely got rid of the ball.

On the very next play, a third-and-8 from Tampa Bay’s 33-yard line, Pickett stood in the pocket as the defense pressured and scanned the field before delivering a fastball to Pickens in-stride between linebacker K.J. Britt and cornerback Zyon McCollum that couldn’t have looked any prettier or been placed in a more perfect location than if he’d used a laser sight. Making the clean catch, Pickens was able to shake and shimmy a little in the field of play before taking the ball into the end zone for a touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.

The celebration afterward was a nice reminder that, yes, it’s still preseason but guys are going to get excited when they can come out and score on an opening drive – something the Steelers were able to do just twice during the 2022 NFL regular season.

Pickett was pulled after the series in favor of Mitch Trubisky as the Steelers rested many veterans in the first exhibition of the season. His numbers speak for themselves:

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