Looking for a spark: Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin felt the Steelers required a boost after the halftime score was 10-6. He changed the quarterback and sent newcomer Kenny Pickett out to play in the second half, taking over the veteran Mitch Trubisky.
“We just thought we needed a spark,” said Tomlin. “We didn’t do much in the first half, not enough offensively, and thought he could provide a spark for us.”
Pickett completed the ball on 10 of 13 attempts for 120 yards. He also scored two touchdowns rushing, and three interceptions, with one occurring in the final moment of the game, in which Pickett was trying to get an unexpected win.
“I thought he did some good things,” said Tomlin. “I thought there was some energy there. We scored some touchdowns. But obviously, we also turned the ball over.”
Tomlin hasn’t given any indication whether Pickett will be starting next week, as the Steelers travel to Buffalo to face the Bills rather than postpone the game until the next week to discuss the matter.
“I’m not going to talk extended as we sit here,” said Tomlin. “We did what we needed to do to put ourselves in a position to win this game. We’ll do it again. But I like to just keep it where we are in terms of what transpired here today. We’ll deal with next week, next week.”
The loss to the 24-20 team brought the Steelers to 1-3 for the season. Tomlin played a simple game. Everyone needed to play better.
“We’re disappointed, but what transpired is not anything mystical,” said Tomlin. “That’s the topic we discussed as a group in there. There’s no disrespect to those Jets. They were able to make plays and won the football match. However, it’s not about how we play.
“It’s not about rabbits’ feet and such. We have to be better players. We need to place them in better positions. We’ve got to be better. This is the team of coaches and players in the group.
“It’s extremely tangible and fundamental. I think we were heavily penalized, particularly in the opening half. I felt that it slowed certain drives.
“Obviously we’re required to be better at controlling the ball. We’ve got the need to make crucial stops when we need these. We just need to be better than we did this morning.
“It’s not broad, sweeping however, it’s not broad, sweeping issues in the NFL man. There’s an extremely fine distinction in this game that stretches between losing and winning.
“Acknowledging that we have to absorb the negativity with our current position men, and roll our sleeves up and remain resolute and keep working. We intend to do that.”
The Steelers were hit with four injuries to the defense aspect of their game. the most prominent of which one was the safety Terrell Edmunds, who was ejected from the game suffering from a concussion. He’s on the protocol. Cameron Heyward had an ankle and elbow injury. Cameron Sutton had a hamstring injury and Minkah Fitzpatrick had a knee injury.
“Don’t have a lot of information there,” said Tomlin. “I’m sure I’ll be able to update you guys the next time we come together.”
Unsatisfied with the result: The emotions accompanying his first NFL appearance as well as the first of his two NFL touchdowns, and the crowd continuously chanting his name at Acrisure Stadium didn’t resonate with Kenny Pickett as much as the pain that came with Jets 23, Steelers 20.
“Just disappointed,” Pickett said. “Wanted to get in there and win the game, but it’s not really about the feelings I’m just disappointed that we didn’t achieve the results that we had worked so hard to achieve.
“Definitely something we need to learn from and move on.”
Pickett substituted Mitch Trubisky at quarterback on the Steelers on the first play in the third quarter.
The first play of Pickett’s was a fourth and 1 sneak from the Steeler’s 31-yard line, which was 2 yards long and a first-down.
The initial pass consisted of a long pass at wide receiver Chase Claypool that got tipped and then was caught by safety Jordan Whitehead, a former teammate of Pickett’s from Pitt.
Pickett completed the ball on 13 of his attempts for 120 yards, and three interceptions, which included the game-ending “Hail Mary” from the Jets 48.
He also ran at least six times, gaining the same amount of yards. He also scored two touchdowns.
The second intercept of Pickett’s was the one that is most regrettable.
The sideline throw to tight end Pat Freiermuth on second-and-15 from the Jets’ 46 with just 3:42 left in regulation was made under pressure and then thrown high, but not enough.
The ball flew off the fingers of Freiermuth’s extending hands and was later caught by cornerback Michael Carter.
The Jets converted the loss into an eight-play, 65-yard drive for a touchdown that took the entire 16 seconds of the clock.
“I wanted it higher than that, definitely,” Pickett stated. “Either Pat was going to take it or it was going be beyond my reach. I didn’t set it in a high enough position.
“I cannot throw an interception there. We want to be aggressive but at the same time the clock was our friend there and I wanted to possess the ball and not do that and give them good field position. So I can’t make that mistake.”
Coach Mike Tomlin turned to Pickett initially, Tomlin said, because Pickett believed that his Steelers “needed a spark.”
Pickett was unsure if he could provide one, but he took to the field in the hopes of having an impact on the field and on his teammates.
“I don’t know, man, I just play with an edge,” Pickett explained. “That seemed like something I was looking for my game to be able to offer.
“I think there’s a little bit of an edge to me. I want that to rub off on everybody. I want us to have an attitude when it’s out there on the field.”
Pickett was also in the game prepared to do whatever was asked of him”whatever” he was told, following having prepared “like I’m a starting player” minus the reps.
“I told Coach (offensive coordinator Matt Canada) I was prepared,” Pickett continued. “I was aware of every play in the game plan. I said to him to not change things up simply because I’m there. Let’s just play it out and watch the outcome. The plan was in place.
“Definitely didn’t want to handcuff us in any situation. I wanted the Coach to call the game. He called it a great game. The plays were there, we made plays, but the turnovers killed us. It’s definitely on me and I have to improve.”
Working in tandem: Cameron Heyward didn’t stop at all.
He’s aware that the offense put the points which were required against the Jets by scoring at least two scores in the second quarter.
What he is unhappy about, however, his team wasn’t in a position to provide the support required to aid the Steelers to gain a victory.
“As a defense, we didn’t get off the field enough, especially in the second half,” said Heyward. “And that’s going to haunt me.”
He continued, clearly irritated by the incident.
“We have to work together on defense,” said Heyward. “If we make it to home up in front, we need to make sure that we’re performing at the back end. If the back side holds up and gives us additional time, we need to make sure we finish the games.
“Not enough coordination across the whole defense. In addition, there is inattention to detail is not sufficient. It’s not difficult to claim, but it all boils down to this. It’s the little things. In addition, you have to fill in your holes. Recognizing that when we are pushing the ball upfield and strangling it that we must all be able to get the ball.
“Understanding the angles. I believe we did a decent job with the run game however, we did too much of this. That first down was vital for us during the first half because when we did manage to be successful on the first play, it made us ready for the second and third. They weren’t able to get to second and 5 because once you reach second-and-5, the entire playbook is open.
“I believe that this caused us to be in a precarious situation, and even though we were able to dominate the first down game and really put the team back. And then we went back to the third and fourth downs of the game in quarter four, and we couldn’t even take off the field.
“You prefer to think about a third, you have you’ve got your money, your focus is heightened to the finer points. Being aware of the hurry you’re in. Sometimes, they’d go to various fronts in order to get additional time with the maximum pro appearance, but we did not clean it up in the front. We weren’t able to hit the mark enough. Then, when we did get home but we didn’t do a good job cleaning up at the back.
“It’s a cycle where we all have to work together. If one guy wants to eat, he better depend on the other 10 to eat. And the other 10 have to do their job. We all have to be accountable to make these plays and be a good defense.”