Kenny Pickett gave the Steelers offense the spark it wanted


The Pittsburgh Steelers misplaced a soccer recreation on Sunday, a recreation that was fully winnable. But even with the loss, they may have achieved one thing in defeat.

Readability concerning the quarterback place.

Rookie passer Kenny Pickett took over for Mitchell Trubisky within the second half, and whereas he was not excellent — removed from it the truth is — he supplied one thing the Steelers had not seen virtually the complete season. He supplied promise and potential, and the hope that the offense could possibly be one thing extra in his arms.

The numbers spoke for themselves when Mike Tomlin made the swap.

Because the Steelers entered the locker room at halftime Sunday throughout their recreation towards the New York Jets, their offense was struggling. Courting again to the second half of their Week 3 loss towards the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers offense had managed simply three fields objectives. One within the second half towards the Browns, and two Sunday within the first half towards the Jets.

Parsing it out over possessions made issues worse for Pittsburgh:

Pittsburgh turned to their rookie quarterback to start out the second half, hoping for a spark.

Pickett threw a pair of interceptions, together with on a Hail Mary on the sport’s remaining play, however he scored a pair of dashing touchdowns within the loss to the Jets. By the top of the sport the group was in his nook greater than ever earlier than, and the Steelers have been again at .500 on the season.

The primary interception got here on a deep shot within the path of Chase Claypool. Pickett got here out of a run pretend and used a half-roll to his proper, earlier than throwing again to Claypool on a deep submit route working from right-to-left. The cross was barely underthrown, which could have given Claypool a bonus on the play, however the receiver couldn’t haul within the throw, and security Jordan Whitehair pounced on the tipped ball:

It was an aggressive resolution from Pickett, which confirmed plenty of belief in Claypool on the opposite finish of the throw. On the identical time, nevertheless, these are the sorts of aggressive selections which were lacking from the Pittsburgh offense in Trubisky’s arms.

However the Steelers protection picked up their rookie quarterback. Just some performs later Pittsburgh took benefit of a tipped cross, as Minkah Fitzpatrick pulled within the soccer after it went by means of Tyler Conklin’s arms, returning it deep into Jets’ territory:

That set the stage for Pickett’s first dashing landing of the day, approaching a quarterback sneak from the one-yard line:

However that’s when Pickett began to flash within the passing recreation. On this third-down conversion from late within the third quarter, the rookie related with one other member of Pittsburgh’s draft class, huge receiver George Pickens, on this spectacular back-shoulder throw:

All the pieces about this play is nice from the pair of rookies. From Pickett you see timing and placement whereas Pickens delivers with the footwork and physique management alongside the sideline. Moreover, this exhibits the chemistry between receiver and quarterback that has already developed early of their rookie seasons.

Then early within the fourth quarter, Pickett delivered the form of play that can endear him not simply to Steelers followers, however the teaching workers together with the complete locker room:

On this third-down play, defensive sort out Quinnen Williams breaks by means of the inside and has a free shot on the rookie, however Pickett bravely stares down the strain, earlier than discovering tight finish Pat Freiermuth up the seam to maneuver the chains.

From this replay angle, you possibly can see the rookie stare down the strain and stand tall, hitting his tight finish after which sharing some ideas with the Jets defenders after the play:

That set the stage for Pickett’s second landing run of the afternoon:

After the sport, the tight finish highlighted this second from the rookie quarterback, calling him a “gamer:”

The sport wouldn’t be completed with offering interceptions off of tipped throws, nevertheless, and Pickett’s second interception got here on one such second:

Rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner broke on the ball, meant for Freiermuth, and Michael Carter was capable of seize the soccer, giving the Jets an opportunity to tie the sport late within the fourth quarter.

There was a window right here for Pickett to focus on Claypool on his dig route, behind the linebackers and in entrance of the two-deep safeties. However he didn’t make the throw, maybe as a result of strain beginning to type on the sides, and he pulled the ball right down to attempt to create area earlier than concentrating on his tight finish within the flat. The throw was excessive, and whereas Freiermuth may have secured this cross, it was an ill-advised resolution late within the play that Pickett would possibly wish to have again.

It additionally overshadowed one other aggressive resolution that got here a number of performs prior, as Pickett and Pickens related to maneuver the chains on one other third-down state of affairs:

The rookies join on a fade route out of the slot, with Pickett giving the guy rookie an opportunity to make a play towards man protection. Pickett places the throw to the surface, given the leverage of the defender, and the receiver makes one other nice adjustment to the throw, giving the Steelers a recent set of downs.

Sadly for Pittsburgh, the interception set the stage for Zach Wilson and the Jets offense to attain the go-ahead landing within the recreation’s remaining minutes. Regardless of the loss, nevertheless, the Steelers can be sensible to forge forward with the rookie on the helm of their offense. Even with the interceptions, the offense confirmed extra explosive potential in his arms, and analysts together with Tomlin himself conceded there was extra power on offense with Pickett in cost:

Pickett’s efficiency additionally wants a little bit of context. Whereas many thought this might be a really perfect week to let him begin his first NFL recreation, with the Steelers coming off the mini-bye after taking part in on Thursday night time in Week 3, as an alternative Trubisky bought the beginning, and the rookie didn’t even get first-team snaps in apply. He then got here into the sport chilly, together with his group trailing by 4, and put them ready to win:

In fact, he additionally made some errors that put them ready to lose. However that’s to be anticipated with a rookie quarterback, notably on this state of affairs.

After the sport, Tomlin remained non-committal concerning the quarterback place:

A part of that could be the coach waiting for the following few weeks. Over the following 4 video games, here’s what the Steelers face: Away towards the Buffalo Payments, dwelling towards the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then a pair of away video games towards the Miami Dolphins and the Philadelphia Eagles. That may be a robust four-game stretch for any quarterback this yr, not to mention a rookie.

Then the Steelers have a bye week earlier than dealing with the Saints at dwelling in mid-November.

Maybe Tomlin desires to get by means of this gauntlet earlier than handing the keys to the rookie, and needs to reap the benefits of the bye week to present Pickett an additional week to arrange. However how affected person will the followers, and the locker room, be if Tomlin waits? For maybe the primary time in months the offense confirmed potential in his arms, and whereas Pickett made some errors, these are to be anticipated in a rookie’s arms.

Successful video games within the NFL is difficult, as is taking part in quarterback. Pickett will face robust video games over the course of his profession.

It’s time to see simply what he could be, and the way a lot of a gamer he’s.


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