NFL.com breaks down what you need to know from Week 3 of the 2023 NFL preseason. Catch up on Thursday night's biggest takeaways using the links below:
Coral Smith's takeaways:
- Pickett, Pittsburgh offense perfect heading into regular season. Kenny Pickett and the Steelers' first-team offense took the field for a couple of more drives on Thursday to wrap up their preseason, and once again appeared to be more than ready for the regular season. With the caveat that they were facing the Falcons' second-stringers, Pickett was nevertheless clearly in control of his offense, showing total poise in the pocket as he led the team to a pair of touchdowns on the team's first two possessions of the game. The Steelers' starters finished up a perfect preseason, having scored a touchdown in each of their five series. On Thursday, Pickett was 4 of 4 for 86 yards, which included two on-the-money 30-plus-yard throws to Diontae Johnson and George Pickens. The run game trucked along, with Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren splitting snaps and each getting into the end zone. The first-stringers went to the sideline halfway through the first quarter with a 14-0 lead -- and a clear indication that the preseason ramp-up process is complete and they're ready for games that count in the standings. Pickett said this week that preseason hype isn't worth much in the long run, but it's hard not to get excited about the talent and efficiency seen out of his offense so far.
- Falcons third-stringers battle for final WR slots. With the 53-man roster cutdown deadline looming on Tuesday, Thursday marked the final in-game chance for many bubble players to prove they deserve a spot on the active squad. While the offense overall struggled to get things going, a few of the new Falcons wide receivers on the edge of the depth chart made themselves seen. Rookie Keilahn Harris was the most visible pass catcher, becoming a top target of third-string quarterback Logan Woodside. Harris hauled in a team-leading six catches for 71 yards, including a 26-yard reception that was the Falcons' longest play of the night. Free-agent signees Mathew Sexton and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside had three receptions each for 29 and 27 receiving yards, respectively. Arthur Smith and the Atlanta coaching staff have some tough decisions to make at almost every position before Tuesday's deadline, and on Thursday those on the bubble in the WR corps gave their best effort at putting themselves in the conversation for the last few open roster spots.
Grant Gordon's takeaways:
- Jonathan Taylor's absence hangs over Colts. The absenteeism of one of the best running backs in football loomed large over the Colts as their preseason ended and the standoff between Taylor and Indy continues. Taylor has requested a trade and has been granted permission to seek one. If he departs from Indy, the preseason has offered a sampling of what the running game sans Taylor will look like and it's not pretty. It's even uglier for the maturation of No. 4 overall pick Anthony Richardson as the future of the franchise would almost certainly be cast in the role as the team's leading rusher while finding his way as an NFL passer. On Thursday, Deon Jackson and Evan Hull each had touchdown runs, but that hardly offers an accurate depiction. Jackson, presumably the interim RB1, had four carries for 8 yards, while the rookie Hull had 25 yards on a half-dozen totes. The Colts won't be better without Taylor, that much is apparent. But for a team rebuilding and with its QB of the future under center, losing Taylor could be a departure that clouds the Colts' forecast for seasons to come.
- Eagles on bubble have mixed results. Thursday night's showing was exactly why you take a chance on a two-time Olympic hurdler. Devon Allen took his first kickoff return of the preseason 73 yards, speeding all the way to the Indianapolis 27-yard line. Allen's elite speed offers up the potential for a make-or-break play here or there in the season, and an argument for a roster spot solely for that reason. … If running back Trey Sermon doesn't find a spot in a loaded Eagles RB room, it's certainly not for a lack of effort. Sermon, who returned kicks in the first two games, bounced back from a fumble in Week 2 for a nice showing and ran hard again Thursday. With double-digit carries, we'll find out in a few days if he was fighting for a spot or just taking on a full load of preseason carries to rest the other backs' legs. … What to make of Marcus Mariota? After a shaky Week 2 outing by the former first-round pick, head coach Nick Sirianni said Mariota was the team's QB2, not rookie Tanner McKee. On Thursday, Mariota surprisingly played just one series before handing the reins to McKee. Conventional wisdom suggests Mariota might be on the bubble, and the preseason finale only adds more mystery to the situation.
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