Steelers winners and losers against the Jets

Winners and losers of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 24-20 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon.

WINNERS

Kenny Pickett– This one feels a bit mixed. Pickett replaced Mitch Trubisky in the second half and provided a massive spark for the Steelers offense in both atmosphere and crowd noise. After throwing an INT on his first career pass, Pickett recovered the ball on a Minkah Fitzpatrick INT and slid the ball for his first touchdown. He led another TD drive the next possession highlighted by a wicked strike to Pat Freiermuth on third down that led to Pickett keeping it himself on a right boot.

But Pickett threw a nasty INT on his second pitch that helped propel the Jets’ comeback. And this one hurt a lot. Pickett provided a better offense than Trubisky was doing, but the hype of his good play early on shouldn’t let you forget that pitch. A slight winner, I suppose, and certainly up for debate.

Chris Boswell– Boswell is rightfully the team’s best offensive weapon. Him and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Sorta sums up the Steelers offense. Boswell provided the first half points with marks of 51 and a whopper of 59 to close out the half. The latter tied his career long and was easily the longest he did in Pittsburgh. After a rainy weekend and a Pitt/Georgia Tech game last night, the field conditions weren’t great, but he made it easy. The only flaw was an out of bounds kickoff

Offensive penalties in the first half – Way too many of them. It ran the gamut from false starts to illegal hands to illegal switches to (another) ineligible man on an RPO, at least the third this season. They clinched their fourth late in the third quarter. Errors that delay an already poor attack and helped limit them to just six points in the first half. It can’t go forward.

Alex Highsmith- Highsmith could have ended the day with a few sacks but he missed a few chances against mobile Zach Wilson. Still, Highsmith dominated the Jets’ dismal tackles, hammered by injuries, including the loss of rookie Max Mitchell midgame. Highsmith also chases the race hard and has helped make an impact on the racing game. He now has 5.5 sacks on the season after having six all last year.

Pat Freiermuth– Freiermuth was his loyal and sure-footed self, consistently making plays in midfield, including some great catches on over/crossing routes. He finds the weak spot against zone coverage and regularly makes contested holds. His run block also seemed to be improved.

It should also be noted that George Pickens was excellent in this game, going for over 100 yards. He made some great sideways shots.

Minka Fitzpatrick- Just put his name in pen before the game. Fitzpatrick is a game wrecker week in and week out, triggering this team with an interception on an angled pass to set up Pickett’s first rushing score. It was almost a pick-six. He worked well as a steal to win under the throws and almost had a second pick – which would have been a TD – in the fourth quarter against Wilson. His consistent tackling continues to be an underrated part of the game.

LOSERS

Pressley Harvin III – Harvin’s inconsistencies continue and his highs aren’t even that high this year. He had several JV punts in that game, including a 35-yard rush of his own 19. You have to wonder if Pittsburgh would consider making a switch. If Harvin is in trouble now, imagine what things might look like when the weather turns sour. And that offense, even with Pickett, still needs a good punter to play position on the field.

Diontae Johnson/Chase Claypool – As calm as it gets for both guys today. Not everything we say about them is good. Both were shut out for catches in the first 50 minutes of the game. Johnson had an oblique pass on his hands – maybe the pass was angled or his vision was obscured by the DT’s drop – but it’s a play he has to make. Claypool lost on a jump ball to a 5’8 safety on Pickett’s first INT. Maybe not the best throw, but these are situations in which Claypool was drafted to win. Claypool was held up on the stat sheet while Johnson had just two short catches on the day.

OT Pass Pro – The o line held up well on pass protection the first three weeks of the season. Less today. The tackles in particular, Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor, have had their issues and will likely be charged for sacks later in the week.

Gunner Olszewski – Not a good day overall for the Steelers wide receivers. Mitch Trubisky isn’t the only player at risk of losing his long-term job. Olszewski dropped a punt, his second of the season, which CB James Pierre luckily recovered. Olszewski didn’t do much to create impact plays in the second leg and he got blasted by LB Kwon Alexander on a winless jet run.

Mitch Trubisky– Trubisky’s poor stats shouldn’t be taken as a perfect reflection of his game, he was better than the numbers would suggest, but it still wasn’t great. His presence in the pocket has been a problem and he is coming up against too much pressure and sacks, including in today’s game. And ultimately, a QB’s job is to score points. Trubisky failed to do so. And so he was benched. I doubt he’ll get his job back next week either.

Fourth Quarter Defense – No bones about it. The Steelers defense crumbled on the stretch. Lack of pass rush, poor run defense, a unit that just didn’t stop. We can talk about the Steelers’ turnovers and offensive errors, but the defense just needed to make a save and they would have won this game. This unit failed. And that can essentially mean the end of their season.

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