Another week, another painful loss for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This time around, it was a 24-20 heartbreaker to the New York Jets at Acrisure Stadium.
Pittsburgh went into the game looking to end their losing ways against a team they generally had good luck against. Going into the contest, they had beaten New York 20 out of 26 times. Unfortunately, their woes continued, especially in the first half.
The offense once again couldn’t create any sort of rhythm, forcing the defense to constantly stay on the field. Chris Boswell’s two field goals were the only reason the Steelers went into the half with any points. Down 10-6 going into the third quarter, head coach Mike Tomlin knew there had to be a change.
Thus easily came the biggest story of the game. The Steelers’ first-round draft pick, Kenny Pickett, made his highly anticipated debut, replacing Mitch Trubisky to start the second half. He supplied a much-needed spark for the offense, becoming the first NFL QB to rush for two touchdowns in his first game. This helped Pittsburgh establish a 20-17 lead in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.
However, Pickett threw a costly interception, giving the Jets the ball with three and a half minutes left to play. Zach Wilson then made several big plays to lead the offense down the field. New York capped the drive off with a Breece Hall touchdown run that gave them the lead with 16 seconds left. Despite a strong effort to get down the field, Pickett’s final pass was intercepted in the end zone as time expired.
Several issues factored into the Steelers’ loss, most importantly the defense. They held up for most of the game, specifically thanks to interceptions by Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cam Sutton. Unfortunately, they gave up the big plays when it mattered most. On New York’s game-winning drive, Pittsburgh let them effortlessly carve up the middle of the field. They also only sacked Wilson once, even though they put constant pressure on him throughout the game.
This once again showed how badly they are missing TJ Watt. Pittsburgh has now lost all seven games without him in the lineup and potentially won’t get him back for another week or two.
Another problem was the numerous turnovers. Trubisky and Pickett combined threw four interceptions that accounted for most of the Jets’ points. Although, it can be argued that three out of the four picks were neither QB’s fault, rather the receivers. Each time the ball could have been caught, only for it to land in the defender’s hands. Regardless, you can’t turn the ball over that many times and expect to win games.
At least one silver lining is the promise Pickett showed when he was called upon. The offense looked energized, something that had been lacking all season long. Tomlin seemed to agree, naming Pickett the Steelers’ starting QB going forward.
Steelers Week 5 Preview
Pittsburgh’s schedule sadly doesn’t get any easier. On Sunday, they travel to Buffalo to face the Bills. Josh Allen and company are coming off a last-second comeback victory against the Baltimore Ravens, improving to 3-1 this season.
This will be the fourth straight year the teams face off, with Buffalo winning two out of the last three. Their most recent game was last September, where the Steelers came back to win 23-16.
For Pittsburgh, several players are on the injury list, including defensive captain Cam Heyward, Sutton, Fitzpatrick, and Terrell Edmunds. Their status for Sunday depends on how they practice this week.
Buffalo will be without receiver Jamison Crowder, who broke his ankle last week against Baltimore. Another receiver, Isaiah McKenzie, is currently in concussion protocol and is day-to-day.
All eyes will be on Pickett heading into the game. Despite performing well against New York, things aren’t going to get any easier as the season progresses. If there was any time for him and the Steelers to prove themselves, it’s this week.