First Call: Bucs coach praises Steelers QB Kenny Pickett; Matt Murray’s first start for Toronto; rare storyline for Bills vs. Chiefs

Despite a lousy result in his first start, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett apparently put enough good things on tape to open the eyes of this week’s opposing head coach.

We are going to see a first when the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs square off Sunday afternoon.

A former Penn State Nittany Lion gets some recognition, and we recap Matt Murray’s first start with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

All that in Thursday’s “First Call.”


Good impression

Even though his offense posted just three points in his first start, Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett is drawing praise from this week’s opponent.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles described the rookie as “a very heady football player. He knows where his check downs are. He has a very good arm.

Bowles also complimented Pickett’s ability to read defenses and his ability to escape the pocket when necessary.

“He’s got a good command of the offense,” Bowles concluded. “So, we expect him to play well (against us).”

Pickett threw for 327 yards and completed 65.4% of his passes. He only threw one interception but also didn’t throw a touchdown.


Here’s a first

How good is that Buffalo Bills team that just smoked the Steelers 38-3? Consider this.

Buffalo is a three-point favorite heading into Kansas City this weekend. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s the first time in Patrick Mahomes’ career that he has ever been an underdog at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.

By comparison, the Steelers’ Kenny Pickett will be making his first start at home Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an eight-point underdog.

The Bills were 14-point favorites heading into last week’s game against the Steelers. That had been the biggest point spread faced by the Steelers since the NFL merger in 1970.


More sports

• U mad, bro?: Steelers fans in a snit over roster construction, TJ Watt’s injuries, stadium name change
• Kenny Pickett focuses on ending Steelers’ skid, not sharing field with Bucs’ Tom Brady
• Shades-wearing Steven Sims says he will play for Steelers vs. Buccaneers


Parsons thinking positive

Penn State product Micah Parsons is the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. During a 22-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams, the Dallas Cowboys star racked up five total tackles (one for loss), two sacks, three QB hits and a forced fumble.

Parsons battled through a groin injury during that game as well. But he told reporters Wednesday that he will be good to go Sunday night when the 4-1 Cowboys visit the 5-0 Philadelphia Eagles.

Meanwhile, New England Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon picked up the AFC hardware. He totaled two sacks, four QB hits, a forced fumble and three total tackles (one for a loss) during a 29-0 win over the Detroit Lions.

As for the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, to no one’s surprise it was Bills quarterback Josh Allen. He led the Buffalo beatdown of the Steelers, finishing 20-of-31 passing for a career-high 424 yards. He also had four touchdowns and added 42 rushing yards on five carries.

He did all that while being lifted in the fourth quarter for backup Case Keenum.


Maple Leaf Matt

The Toronto Maple Leafs are banking on a career resurgence from Matt Murray. He was their goalie for Game 1 of their NHL season Wednesday.

It wasn’t good enough. Murray and the Leafs lost to the Montreal Canadiens. The former Penguin allowed four goals on 23 shots as the Canadiens won 4-3.

Cole Caufield had a pair for Montreal.

Murray, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Penguins, is hoping to find his game in Toronto after a nightmare stint in Ottawa. Following a trade with the Penguins, Murray went 15-25-3 for the Senators over two seasons, with a save percentage of .899 and a goals against average of 3.23.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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