After further review: Big plays in the Steelers’ DNA

After further review …

It was a slog at times in the preseason, and it was again at times against the Lions.

They’ll keep doing so on Sept. 11 in Cincinnati and beyond.

A preseason in which not all of the questions have been answered has betrayed at least that much.

It won’t all be misdirection and razzle-dazzle in Year Two under offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

“We’re gonna be aggressive,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky announced. “We like our play-makers inside and out. When we get matched up 1-on-1s we like to take advantage of those.”

Trubisky took such a shot and wound up with a 38-yard gain to wide receiver Diontae Johnson on the Steelers’ second possession.

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The two-minute drive at the end of the second quarter that produced the game’s first touchdown included a 32-yard strike down the seam ti tight end Pat Freiermuth.

“Pat’s just a guy you trust,” Trubisky maintained. “When he’s down there and you feel like it’s a 50-50 ball you know he’s gonna come down with it more times than not. That throw, it felt great coming off my hands. I knew as soon as I let go of it that it was going to be in a great spot for Pat to go up and make a play, O-line did a great job of giving me time and that’s just good execution across the board.

Rookie wide receiver George Pickens is in the process of earning a similar reputation.

Trubisky and Pickens hooked up for 22 yards just before the Freiermuth play.

They had also endured a near miss down the sideline on the previous possession.

But from Trubisky’s perspective it was still a shot worth taking.

“He almost made a great one-handed grab,” Turbisky assessed. “I tried to tell him to get two on it instead of trying to get on ESPN with one-handed catches, but he’s doing a great job.

“We’re just gonna keep looking for those mismatches and attacking downfield and hopefully create lighter run boxes for (running back) Najee (Harris) to be a balanced offense.”

But the more deep sideline shots begin to influence the safeties, the fewer people there will be to block in the box and the easier it’ll be, in theory, at least, to get Harris enough room to start running downhill.

If not, there are big plays to be made in the passing game.

Quarterback Kenny Pickett is of a similar mindset.

His back-shoulder throw to wide receiver Miles Boykin that went for 29 yards to the Lions’ 11-yard line in the third quarter is the type of play Pickett believes Steelers quarterbacks and wide receivers can exploit consistently.

“I tell those guys all the time, they’re running to win, if they’re not getting stack on the DB (running ahead with the defensive back chasing from behind) I’m gonna throw it back-shoulder and it usually works out like that every time,” Pickett maintained.

“I’ve connected with Miles a ton on those kind of plays down the field. I thought I had some really good ones to ‘T.V.’ (wide receiver Tyler Vaughns) as well (throughout the preseason) on those short, fade balls, running some RPO (run-pass option) stuff, wanting to get the ball up and down.

“Definitely great things to learn from and kinda bounce into the regular season.”

And a much-needed identity upon which the Steelers can build.

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