Week Four Takeaways: Steelers loss to Jets illustrates needed changes

The Pittsburgh Steelers had extra time to prepare for NFL Week Four and the New York Jets, with high expectations of improvement. Despite that, the Steelers struggled on both sides of the ball with a few highlights thrown in during the first half.

In the second half, though, a change to Kenny Pickett at quarterback over Mitchell Trubisky wasn’t mistake free, but gave Pittsburgh a boost in what resulted in a close game. Losing 20-24 to the Jets illustrated changes the Steelers need to make quickly.

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It’s time to move on from Mitch

Mitchell Trubisky may be a veteran quarterback but, through three weeks of play during the 2022 NFL regular season, it was more and more clear that his tendencies in Chicago followed him to Pittsburgh. The glaring issue was a lack of vision when it came to finding open receivers and a quickness to leave the pocket instead of settling in.

After a repetition of the same mediocre play from Trubisky and the offense in the first two quarters on Sunday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made the choice that he felt put his team in the best position for a win; he asked the rookie quarterback to step up and take hold of the reins.

“We just thought we needed a spark. We didn’t do much in the first half, not enough offensively, and thought (Pickett) could provide a spark for us.” – Mike Tomlin

Pickett’s first NFL outing (preseason doesn’t count) was not perfect, but he finished the close game having completed 10-of-13 passes for 120 yards. He scored two rushing touchdowns, setting an NFL record, but threw three errant passes that ultimately ended up being possessed by New York defenders. Two of those passes were tipped off of his receivers’ hands and the third was on a Hail Mary that required a true miracle to be a positive completion.

Conversely, Trubisky went 7-of-13 for 84 yards passing and threw one interception. He was also sacked three times. While he led the offense to gain enough yardage to set up two field goals by Chris Boswell – who launched one for 59 yards to tie his own record – Trubisky gave the Steelers little reason to not sit him on the sidelines for the remainder of the game.

“Kenny gave us a spark… You could feel the energy in the stadium when he was in there.” – Chase Claypool

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Offense late finding spark

Running back Najee Harris was able to earn a season-high 74 yards on 18 carries. The offense finished with 119 yards on the ground.

Rookie receiver George Pickens, who’s had few moments previous to Pickett throwing to him for much more than a highlight play here and there, went over 100 yards (102) receiving for the first time in his NFL career. Pickens also converted for first downs and posted a 17.0 yards per catch average.

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Defense needs to get stops, more pressure

Leaving plays on the field has become a theme of Teryl Austin‘s defense despite a talented Steelers roster. Once again, on third and fourth down, Pittsburgh’s defense couldn’t get themselves off the field.

“You like to think third down, your money down, your attention to detail picks up.” – Cameron Heyward

Were there turnovers? Yes, there were two; one by Minkah Fitzpatrick, another by Cameron Sutton. Did Pittsburgh struggle to pressure Zach Wilson? Yes, although Alex Highsmith added a sack to his league-leading total.

The defense couldn’t get the critical stop, though, in the final seconds of the game that could have handed Pittsburgh the comeback win. They allowed the Jets to march into the red zone and then execute the go-ahead play.

“It’s frustrating to lose to people that you know you’re better than, more talented than, especially when you have the team that we have. We’re a great team with a lot of talent, a lot of great young players. I think we are way better than what we’ve been putting on display.” – Minkah Fitzpatrick

The Steelers defensive backfield and linebacker corps don’t get let off the hook just because pressure on the quarterback and initial run-stopping falls mainly on the defensive front and edge. The Jets had a mix of runs and passes that caught Pittsburgh flat-footed or out of position to make the tackle.

The Steelers can’t feel good that the Jets were able to run a “Philly Special” on them that allowed New York’s young quarterback in Wilson to score a receiving touchdown on them.

Everything in Sunday’s loss is correctable if the Steelers take a hard look at changes that need to be made after they were illustrated over the course of their first four regular season games.

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