Steelers vs Lions: What Did We Learn?

Mitch Trubisky led Pittsburgh to a win in Steelers vs Lions
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What did we learn in Steelers vs Lions Sunday afternoon? Meh…not much. It was informative to see who played what snaps – but in terms of the players themselves it wasn’t anything surprising. This post won’t be quite as detailed as previous, because we didn’t learn as much in Steelers vs Lions as we did in the first two preseason games.

Head Coach Mike Tomlin used this game as a tune up. Letting a lot of starters play most of the first half to get ready for the regular season. In doing so, we saw a lot of what we already figured would be the case come Week 1 against the Bengals.

With all that said, let’s break down the offense and defense from Steelers vs Lions.


The offense in Steelers vs Lions obviously starts with the quarterbacks. We saw two QBs for the most part in this one. Starter Mitch Trubisky played his largest amount of time this preseason playing six series across the entire first half. Trubisky went 15/19 for 160 yards and one touchdown. Playing the whole first half allowed Trubisky to play his first two-minute drill of the preseason where he led Pittsburgh on a six play, 92 yard drive in a minute and twenty seconds.

Backup Kenny Pickett also had a nice showing (three series, 10/14, 90 yards) but nothing that could push for the starting job. This was always Trubisky’s job to lose and he did not do that.

We didn’t learn anything new about the pass catchers in Steelers vs Lions. Miles Boykins should safely make this roster with his play on special teams and continued involvement in the offense.

The third running back spot which has been a battle between Jaylen Warren and Anthony McFarland Jr. appears to be done. Warren (the training camp darling) had seven carries in this one to McFarland’s two. And his play on special teams is also a large bump.

The offensive line I’d say had a better game in some aspects in this one. They appeared more confident in their looks and play. They had some sloppy plays with penalties but it seemed like it was due to a correction in technique, resulting in over aggression. I’m happy to see things progressing and changing for the line, even if it isn’t always pretty.


We received a lot of confirmation on things defensively, but nothing looked different from previous weeks. Pittsburgh still struggles up the middle against the run which could be for a myriad of reasons. However this usually happens in sub-packages with no nose tackle, which relies on the linebackers to plug the middle. Among the second and third string offensive lines however, you could see the defensive tackles too quickly shooting upfield and leaving gaps open.

All of our questions about linebacker play were answered here. Devin Bush had some nice moments, but still struggled against the pass, and dealing with blocks on the second level. When Pittsburgh intentionally sends him to a gap he has looked good playing next to Myles Jack, but ask him to cover ground and things go haywire. Mark Robinson got a lot of playing time in this one, getting action early in the third quarter. But Buddy Johnson didn’t see defensive action until the fourth. Unless Marcus Allen isn’t ready to go for Week 1, Johnson will likely end up back on Pittsburgh’s practice squad.

We could have a shakeup in the defensive backfield. Elijah Riley was claimed by Pittsburgh off waivers on 8/24. The team waived Donovan Stiner to make room for Riley. Riley was seen as potential insurance for Miles Killebrew, who it remains unclear how healthy/injured he is. Riley played well, making his presence known on special teams and defense in Steelers vs Lions. And now with the injury to Damontae Kazee could actually find himself on Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster.

At corner Justin Layne tried to win his spot back after an interception in last week’s game. He had two nice tackles late in Steelers vs Lions, but still ran with the third string defense, and even struggled on special teams.

Final Thoughts

I am exciting for a couple things we’ve learned through this preseason. That thing is the use of the safeties. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds spent a lot of time in or around the box this preseason. This led to Fitzpatrick recording a sack in Steelers vs Lions. This should be a fun wrinkle to help the defense this season.

Offensively I am pleasantly surprised by the quarterback play. The skill players are skilled enough to pop, and if whoever the quarterback is can stay clean (both literally and with the ball) this offense could have something to it.

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