Mike Tomlin turned to rookie QB Kenny Pickett in the second half, but it wasn’t quite enough for the Pittsburgh Steelers to come up with a win against the Jets.
It was almost a fairytale ending for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4 against the New York Jets. After an offense led by quarterback Mitch Trubisky was able to muster up just 6 points in the first half, rookie QB Kenny Pickett had a chance to set the world on fire with a picture-perfect finish in his first-ever NFL action.
Sadly, it just wasn’t meant to be. Pickett flashed some spectacular moments like hitting Pat Freiermuth and George Pickens on absolute strikes over the middle. However, the box score paints a pretty ugly picture in his first regular-season contest.
In just two quarters of action, Pickett threw 0 touchdown passes and recorded 3 interceptions, via ESPN stats. Normally, this would be viewed as an atrocious performance… but that’s only if you are box-score-checking and taking these stats out of context.
Steelers Kenny Pickett was much better than stats indicate
While there are certainly things Pickett is going to have to clean up regarding his game when he goes back to the drawing board this week, Steelers fans who actually watched the game against the Jets certainly shouldn’t be too hard on the rookie quarterback.
Two of Pickett’s three interceptions in the second half came off deflected passes that hit the hands of his receivers. These were tipped balls that just so happened to fall in the laps of Jets defensive backs. Though the decisions to make these passes and the throws themselves weren’t perfect, there was certainly some bad luck here for the rookie quarterback.
Pickett’s third and final pick was in the closing seconds on a hail mary attempt. This was a pass that needed to be thrown and the rookie got the ball well inside the endzone. Unfortunately, it was a Jets player who ultimately came down with the football.
When you take these interceptions in context, Pickett’s game doesn’t look nearly as bad. The Steelers first round-pick also rushed for two scores in this game — which does nothing in aiding his 65.1 passer rating. However, these touchdowns certainly mattered, and this was the first time this year that Pittsburgh was able to score more than 17 points on offense.
In addition, this game taught us that Pickett isn’t afraid of throwing the ball over the middle of the field and he gashed New York’s defense at times. Outside of the interceptions (which were a bit flukey), Pickett finished 10 for 10 passing the football. Even with the picks, he was able to manage a very impressive 9.2 yards per attempt (Trubisky had previously averaged just 5.5 per attempt during the first three games).
There’s no doubt that Kenny Pickett provided this team with a spark and an energy level it hasn’t had since a younger Ben Roethlisberger. His performance wasn’t nearly as bad as the box score would indicate, and fans must be hopeful about what he can offer the Pittsburgh Steelers moving forward. Now the real test begins as he prepares to face the Buffalo Bills on the road next week.