PITTSBURGH, PA–The good news about this game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NY Jets is the fact that they realized they needed to adjust on offense because the current system was not working. Out went QB Mitch Tribusky who tried but was not able to advance the offense when needed, and in came rookie Kenny Pickett, who led the Steelers to two TDs on two consecutive drives and a 20-10 lead courtesy of two TD runs.
The bad news? The Steelers still lost 24-20 because the Jets scored fourteen unanswered points in the fourth quarter, dropping their record to 1-3 with the AFC-Favorite Buffalo Bills looming.
“We’re disappointed, but what transpired is not anything mystical. That’s what we talked about as a collective in there,” said Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin. “No disrespect to the Jets, they made plays and won the football game, but it’s not about who we play. It’s not about rabbits’ foots and so forth. We’ve got to play better. We’ve got to put them in better position. We’ve got to perform better. And I’m talking about the collection of players and coaches in there.”
After a tight first half in which they only gave up 10 points, the Steelers defense was unable to prevent the Jets comeback as QB Zach Wilson (18/36, 252 yards, 2 total TDs, 2 Int) was clutch as he engineered two successful drives that resulted in 3rd down conversions and 2 TDs: One to WR Corey Davis (5 rec, 74 yards) and the other one was the result of a 2-yard TD run by RB Breece Hall (17 carries, 66 yards). Wilson also caught a TD in the first quarter on a Philly Special-type play in which he caught a 2-yard pass from WR Braxton Barrios for their first TD of the game.
“You know, some attrition things, fatigue, etcetera, but also execution by the Jets. And that’s what I mean in my opening when I said I’d be remiss if I didn’t compliment those guys. They made the necessary plays,” Tomlin commented. “We had some penalties on possession-down-like plays. They did enough to keep drives extended and move the football, and we didn’t.”
Although Tribusky (7/13, 84 yards, Int) struggled to get the Steelers into the end zone, he did have two successful scoring drives that resulted in two Chris Boswell field goals, one of which was an Acrisure Record-59-yarder that closed the Jets lead to 10-6 before halftime. Many media experts and fans had been calling for Tomlin to make the switch to Pickett, and when he did on the Steelers first drive in the 3rd quarter, the 66,578 fans in attendance gave a thunderous ovation.
“We just thought we needed a spark. We didn’t do much in the first half, not enough offensively, and thought he could provide a spark for us,” said Tomlin.
Pickett’s appearance gave the Steelers a jolt that they have not had since their first game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, and although he finished with 3 interceptions, it is fair to say that it did not cost them the game.
“I thought he did some good things. I thought there was some energy there,” said Tomlin. “We scored some touchdowns. But obviously, we also turned the ball over.”
When asked about who his starting QB would be next week, Tomlin replied, “You know, I’m not going to talk extended as we sit here. We did what we needed to do to put ourselves in 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 Steelers running game did show signs of improvement as RB Najee Harris rushed for 74 yards on 18 carries, and the offensive line did an excellent job protecting Pickett, but the bottom-line in sports is wins and losses, and the Steelers unfortunately were on the losing end.
The Steelers must now learn from this and prepare to travel to East Rutherford, NY to face a Bills team that is not only a Super Bowl favorite, but also had a comeback of their own against the Baltimore Ravens.
“Obviously, we’ve got to possess the ball better. We’ve got to get necessary stops when we need them. We’ve just got to do a better job than we did today,” Tomlin expressed. “It’s not broad, sweeping things, but it’s never broad, sweeping things in the NFL, man. It’s a fine line in this business between winning and losing. So, 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.”
Notes: Tomlin addressed the injuries: “[Terrell] Edmunds in concussion protocol. Cam Heyward had an ankle and elbow. Cam Sutton has a hamstring. Minkah [Fitzpatrick]’s knee is being evaluated. I don’t have a lot of information there. I’m sure I’ll be able to update you guys the next time we come together.”
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