The Steelers' final game of the 2022 preseason will be anything but a sleepy exhibition. Several position battles will be settled when Pittsburgh hosts the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon, including starting quarterback.
Mitchell Trubisky has been the frontrunner to be the Steelers' Week 1 starter since he was signed as a free agent in March. But rookie Kenny Pickett has made a late charge entering Sunday's game. Mason Rudolph has also played well this preseason, but his recent slide to third-team work would suggest that -- barring the unexpected -- the job is either Trubisky's or Pickett's to lose.
"A lot of spots are going to come down to this work," Tomlin said of Pittsburgh's preseason finale. "This work is weighted differently, and appropriately so. The in-stadium work is significant, and increasingly so with the more stadium exposure you get. So make no mistake, this is a significant game for a lot of people."
Trubisky started in each of Pittsburgh's first two preseason games. He went a combined 9 of 15 for 123 yards with one touchdown while be sacked one time. Subpar pass protection, however, doomed Trubisky and the Steelers' offense during his three series of work in the preseason game in Jacksonville this past weekend.
"Definitely wanted to score with the three drives. Moved the ball a little bit, (but) we hurt ourselves," Trubisky said following Saturday's game. "It'll be nice once we get a little bit more into the regular season, into the routine and more game planning to take advantage. ... (But) no excuses, we've got to come out and and execute the plays."
The 20th-overall pick in this year's draft, Pickett went 19 of 22 for 171 yards with three touchdowns while being sacked three times in his first two preseason games. He went 6 of 7 (with his lone incompletion being a spike to stop the clock) for 76 yards and a touchdown in just two series of work against the Jaguars. He enjoyed a successful connection with tight end Pat Freiermuth, as the duo connected for completions on 11 and 24 yards to set up Pickett's touchdown pass to running back Benny Snell.
"I go out there and play, that's it," Pickett said Saturday of the quarterback competition between himself, Trubisky and Rudolph. "I don't think about it. I'm a football player. Whatever number they have me as, I don't care. I'm going to go out there and play every single time as hard as I can."
The longest-tenured of the Steelers' quarterbacks, Rudolph went 26 of 36 for 220 yards with two touchdowns while being sacked once this preseason while playing with Pittsburgh's second- and third-team offenses. The five-year veteran went 17 of 21 for 127 yards while playing the entire second half of last Saturday's game. His touchdown pass to Tyler Snead on fourth-and-goal was the game-winning score in Pittsburgh's 16-15 win.
"I was happy with the way we played and the way we finished," Rudolph said of Saturday's win. "I think (the experience of moving around between offensive units) only hardens you, it only makes you better. Just being adaptable, going back and forth and mesh with other teammates that you might not get to play with had you stayed with the first or second group.
"I can't control it, but I was happy with the guys and the way we meshed tonight."
Left guard, running back and receiver are among the other position battles Tomlin will be keeping an eye on Sunday. Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green are competing to be the Steelers' left tackle; Dotson told reporters that he received first-team reps during Monday's practice after Green got the starting nod this past Saturday.
The Steelers' final receiver spot on the 53-man roster will come down to Gunner Olszewski, Steven Sims, Tyler Vaughns, Cody White and Miles Boykin. Olszewski is the frontrunner to win the battle, but his spot on the 53-man roster is anything but a sure thing. Jaylen Warren has put up a good fight to supplant Snell as Najee Harris' primary backup, but he'll need another good effort Sunday to hold that spot over Snell and Anthony McFarland.