TAMPA, Fla. (AP)The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t rushing to declare a winner in the competition for Tom Brady’s old job.
Baker Mayfield was sharper than Kyle Trask in a 27-17 preseason-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday night. Coach Todd Bowles, however, wasn’t ready to say either candidate has gained the upper hand.
Mayfield posted better statistics in 1½ quarters against the Steelers, but it’s always difficult to assess performances in outings during which starters from both teams play sparingly while coaching staffs take extended looks at backups and young players hoping to make the final roster.
“He was composed, did a good job of commanding the offense,” Bowles said of the No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 draft. “He made the plays he needed to make.”
Steelers starter Kenny Pickett, who worked one series, completed six of seven passes for 70 yards on a 10-play, 83-yard drive and finished with a 33-yard TD throw to George Pickens.
Pickett was sharp, but the Bucs only started one regular on defense.
“I thought we saw some things we wanted to see,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
“First-team offense, Kenny spread the ball around, kept himself clean, moved the group,” Tomlin added, “and we were able to check that box in terms of getting them a quality rep at the process – the things they did at the hotel, the procedural things leading up to play.”
Mayfield, meanwhile, played without six starters on offense, including three veteran linemen and receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
He was 8 of 9 for 63 yards and one touchdown over five series against a mix of Pittsburgh starters and reserves. Just as important to Bowles is the 28-year-old Mayfield, who spent four seasons with Cleveland before making a combined 10 starts for Carolina and the Los Angeles Rams last year, didn’t turn the ball over.
“For the most part, I think it went smooth. … Getting back out there for the first time is good,” said Mayfield, who’s with his fourth team in two years.
Trask, a 2021 second-round draft pick who appeared in just one regular-season game in two years as the No. 3 quarterback behind Brady and Blaine Gabbert, was sacked three times while going 6 of 10 for 99 yards with one interception.
“I thought Kyle commanded the offense also,” Bowles said. “I know threw the pick, but he made some good throws, too.”
Mason Rudolph tossed a 67-yard TD pass to Calvin Austin III for Pittsburgh, which also used Mitchell Trubisky and Tanner Morgan.
The teams combined for 18 penalties, including 12 for 127 yards on the Bucs.
NIGHT OF REST
In all, 21 players did not suit up for the Bucs, including 10 starters on offense and six on offense. In addition to linebackers Devin White, Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett, the entire defensive backfield of Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis III, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Ryan Neal sat out. The lone projected starter who played was second-year defensive lineman Logan Hall.
Offensively, Evans and Godwin were joined on the sideline by running back Rachaad White and veteran linemen Tristan Wirfs, Ryan Jensen and Matt Feiler.
Rookie Calijah Kancey, a projected starter on the defensive line after being drafted in the first round out of Pitt, has been sidelined for a portion of training camp by a calf injury.
Steelers reserve linebacker Chapelle Russell (knee) left in the first half and did not return. … Defensive tackle Keeanu Benton (ankle) departed in the second half.
Buccaneers Don Gardner left in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury.
Steelers: Host the Buffalo Bills next Saturday night.
Buccaneers: Travel to New York for two days of joint practices before next Saturday’s preseason game against the Jets.
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