The Steelers suffered a bitter loss to the Jets this weekend, and here are the winners and losers from the matchup.
It was a heartbreaking game for the Steelers this week, as the team was desperate for a win but failed to capture one against the Jets. This was the last winnable game (on paper at least) for the foreseeable future, and things may begin to unravel for Pittsburgh. This team is in bad shape, and their schedule is about to get a lot harder.
All of this put a damper on the debut of Kenny Pickett. The first-round pick came in at the half time and while far from perfect, he had some good traits that he showed off. While he has yet to be named the starter going forward, we should be seeing a lot of Pickett moving forward. His first game wasn’t a win though, and here are the winners and losers from week four.
Steelers had some clear winners
Outside of Minkah Fitzpatrick, the best defender for the Steelers right now is Alex Highsmith. After a sophomore season that built into a quality last few games, Highsmith has come out and played incredibly well this season. He leads the team in sacks and is consistently winning off the edge.
While he only logged one sack on Sunday, he was constantly in the backfield and causing pressure. Sure, had he finished a few more of those sacks, his game would have looked far better, but he was hampered with an injury early in the game. That said, he was one of the long players that can consistently generate pressure right now on this defense.
There may not be a more dependable receiver on the Steelers right now than Pat Freiermuth. The second-year tight end is a threat from all over the field and can hold his own as a blocker. The team hasn’t had this good of a tight end since Heath Miller was in his prime, and the offense is definitely benefiting from his play.
He was his usual, dependable self this week, catching seven passes for 85 yards. More importantly, he had instant chemistry with Pickett, as the two connected multiple times and for key gains. I expect this partnership to blossom this season as both get to play with each other some more.
It looks like the Steelers just needed Pickett in to get George Pickens going. While the past two weeks saw some more of the rookie second-round pick, he was still lacking given the hype he had entering the season. While he had some production early in the game, he was Pickett’s go-to receiver this week.
Has Pickens finally arrived? It seems likely. The rest of the receiver room didn’t pop with the new quarterback. Assuming Pickett is the guy going forward, Pickens could quickly become one of his top targets. It took a little longer than I had thought, but Pickens seems poised to take off in this new offense.
Steelers had some ugly losers
If Pickett saw action that means that Mitchell Trubisky was benched. It was for good reason, as he was continuing to struggle despite the multiple chances that he had been given. He was still avoiding the middle of the field and his accuracy seemed even more off than usual.
More than likely, that was the last significant playing time Trubisky will have in a Steelers uniform. Pickett should be the guy going forward, and Trubisky will either be dealt or cut in the offseason. This season definitely didn’t go as he seemed to plan for it to go.
The other Steelers receivers
While Pickens seemed to come alive with Pickett throwing passes, the rest of the receiving roster didn’t. Diontae Johnson had two catches for 11 yards while Chase Claypool had no receptions. For a group that was being hyped in the offseason for their versatility and talent, it has been a mediocre start for the group.
If the offense wants to have any shot at succeeding, they need to get this group going. The stars need to play better and soon, as Pickett will need help in developing his professional game. They didn’t show up this week, and it proved to be costly for the team.
The Steelers defense
Despite a few quality players, this defense is far from the elite group that I had thought it would be. The run defense, while improved, is still mediocre and the pass defense has been lacking since T.J. Watt went down with an injury. With the offense being as slow as it has been, a dominant defense is needed to have a shot at winning.
This group is far from that, and worse yet, they crumbled late when the Steelers had the lead. Was the loss entirely on them? Of course not, as the offense was still lacking, but this group looked rough once again, and with tougher offenses on the schedule, this defense may get blown apart soon.
It was a tough loss to swallow for the Steelers this week. While no game this early is truly a must-win, a loss to the Jets could cause the team to unravel. Changes need to be made and soon if this team wants to turn its season around.