PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mitch Trubisky staked his claim to take over for the retired Ben Roethlisberger, throwing for 160 yards and a touchdown as the Pittsburgh Steelers eased past Detroit 19-9 in the NFL’s preseason finale on Sunday afternoon.
Trubisky, signed to a two-year contract in March, was at his best late in the first half. Working the “two-minute” offense for the first time, Trubisky led the Steelers 92 yards in six plays, finishing off the crisp drive with a 6-yard strike to Steven Sims that gave Pittsburgh (3-0) a 16-point halftime lead.
While coach Mike Tomlin may wait to announce who will ultimately get the nod in the three-man race — well, OK, two-man race — between Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett — Trubisky did little to lose the job during three exhibition appearances. The former second overall pick completed 24 of 34 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in three games.
Pickett, the 20th overall pick in the draft, was an efficient 10 of 14 for 90 yards while playing with the second-team offense in the third and fourth quarters.
It’s been a solid and at times dazzling August for Pickett, who is an important part of Pittsburgh’s future. Trubisky, however, appears to be part of the present.
The Steelers played their starters on both sides of the ball in the first half, and it nearly cost them after All-Pro linebacker T.J. 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 receiving a cut block from Detroit tight end T.J. Hockenson in the second quarter. Hockenson seemed to apologize to Watt immediately after the play, and Watt remained in the game briefly before being pulled.
Johnson, who signed a lucrative two-year extension earlier this month, also left in the first half with a shoulder injury after landing awkwardly following a nice 38-yard reception down the sideline.
Tomlin said at halftime the injuries to both players appeared to be minor and that they possibly could have returned if the game counted.
The Lions (1-2), who have spent the last month taking a rare turn in the spotlight as part of the “Hard Knocks” docuseries, have a slightly lower-profile quarterback competition going on than the Steelers. With starter Jared Goff taking the day off, Tim Boyle and David Blough tried to provide some clarity to the backup position.
Neither exactly distinguished himself. Boyle completed just 5 of 15 passes for 64 yards while working the first half. He also threw an interception directly to Pittsburgh cornerback Cam Sutton that set up one of Chris Boswell’s four field goals.
Blough was a little more effective while working against players who are hoping they’ll still have a job in the NFL after teams trim their rosters to 53 on Tuesday afternoon. Blough finished 17 of 32 for 160 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown flip to Quintez Cephus with 30 seconds to go.
The Lions could be in the market for a backup quarterback this week. There could be one available in Pittsburgh, where Mason Rudolph appears very much to be the third-man in the three-way race with Trubisky and Pickett.
Lions: Welcome Phildelphia to Ford Field on Sept. 11.
Steelers: Begin the season on the road for the eighth straight year when they head to Cincinnati to face the Bengals on Sept. 11. Cincinnati swept the season series from Pittsburgh last fall on its way to an unlikely AFC North title.