2023 Steelers Season Recall: Jaguars have Pittsburgh’s number as officiating adds insult to injuries

Steel City Underground presents our 2023 Steelers Recall: A Look Back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.

On Sunday afternoon, the 4-2 Pittsburgh Steelers hosted a hot 5-2 Jacksonville Jaguars team at Acrisure Stadium. Pittsburgh looked like they’d round out October of the 2023 NFL regular season with a real shot at upsetting the opponents’ road win streak. In the wet conditions, playmakers were stepping up but two key injuries and a random penalty hobbled the Steelers as they lost, 20-10.

A hamstring injury to safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was something that forced the Steelers to make an adjustment on defense, including a bigger role for Miles Killebrew. However, the injury to quarterback Kenny Pickett sucked the air out of Steelers Nation collectively.

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Behind by just six points (9-3) with 18 seconds left in the second quarter, Pickett dropped back to pass. Jaguars defensive lineman Adam Gotsis tipped the ball and then drove Pickett into the turf. With all of the weight on top of him, Pickett was unable to protect himself and remained down on the field to be attended to. A rib injury was confirmed as was the inevitable result: a need for Mitchell Trubisky to enter as the second-half quarterback. Before the play, Pickett completed 10-of-16 passes for 73 yards.

The Steelers offense got off to a hot start, almost. On the opening play, Diontae Johnson was wide open down the middle of the field and just couldn’t get more than his fingertips on the ball. If he’d have completed the play, despite the rain, it likely would have been a 75-yard touchdown reception. George Pickens also had a big-play opportunity on a corner route in the first half but Darious Williams was able to break up the pass as it was a tad short.

“We didn’t come out fast enough. We didn’t play well enough… We had too many three-and-outs, stuff like that. We’ve got to do a better job in certain situations. We’ve just got to play harder and execute more.” – Diontae Johnson

The first half saw the team only score three total points. The team mustered a combined seven yards of offense over their first four possessions, each resulting in a three-and-out, with a punt.

Kenny Pickett would finally orchestrate a 12-play, 61-yard drive that ended in a field goal when the Steelers couldn’t punch the ball into the endzone from the Jaguars 5-yard-line. A 6-play, 30-yard drive ended the half with the missed field goal (mentioned below.)

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With Trubisky at quarterback, the Steelers were playing catch-up and the veteran completed 15-of-27 pass attempts (55.6%) for 138 yards and a 22-yard touchdown pass to Pickens, but threw two absolutely game-killing easy interceptions to a Jaguars team that had been stacking takeaways. Trubisky was also sacked twice.

To make matters worse, the touchdown catch was Pickens’ only reception on five targets for the afternoon.

The Steelers only put together a combined 70 total rushing yards. In total, Jaylen Warren ran five times for 19 yards (3.8 YPC) and Najee Harris carried seven times for 14 yards (1.9 YPC). Needless to say, the run game didn’t help either quarterback.

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The Steelers defense, however, came to play. LB Cole Holcomb led the team with 11 total tackles and was the beneficiary of a fumble recovery thanks to Kwon Alexander ripping the ball out of tight end Evan Engrams‘ hands.

Keanu Neal also grabbed a fumble recovery on the day as the Steelers defense logged three total takeaways – including an interception by Damontae Kazee – and sacked Lawrence three times. Elandon Roberts had 1.5 sacks, Alex Highsmith and T.J. Watt earned 0.5 a piece, and Armon Watts got 0.5.

The Steelers only allowed the Jaguars offense to score a single touchdown. The rest of the points for Jacksonville came via field goals.

The bizarre things that happened in this game revolved around some truly questionable calls by officials that were considered judgement calls. Poor judgement? Unfortunately, irreversible.

The momentum in this game shifted on a poor defensive pass interference call, which like in the previous week’s Rams game, extended an opponent’s scoring drive for something that wasn’t a penalty. Along with the next items, these plays alone accounted for a ten-point swing on the scoreboard, something a putrid Pittsburgh offense could ill afford to have happen.

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Following a 55-yard field goal conversion by Chris Boswell, the officials flagged guard Isaac Seumalo for “lining up offside.” The replays did not shed insight as to why the flag was necessary and head coach Mike Tomlin said, in his post-game press conference, “I hadn’t seen that called in 17 years of standing on the sidelines. Offsides, aligned offsides on a guard, on a field goal protection. So it didn’t matter what they said. I have never seen that.”

The result was that Boswell, who’d been perfect on the season, was forced to retry to field goal and pushed the ball wide right from 61 yards. No good.

Then there’s the roughing the passer calls, of which the Steelers were on the short end of both decisions.

Neal was flagged for “roughing the passer” when he hit Lawrence just a step after the ball had been released. Contrast that to the no-call on Gotsis who drilled Pickett, whose arms were pinned, and landed with his full weight on the quarterback, and Steelers fans were throwing their hands in the air.


The loss was a tough one for the Steelers, who would have to turn things around for a short week and be on the field again for Thursday Night Football against the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans game, potentially minis Kenny Pickett, would be a critical one with the Steelers, Bengals, and Browns all tied at 4-3 in the AFC North. The division was the NFL’s only one to have all of its teams at .500 or better at this point in the season, making the Steelers’ 2-0 division win-loss record even more important as they prepared for Tennessee.

Stay tuned next week as we continue our look back at the 2023 schedule in our weekly Recall series.

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