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After Further Review: A lasting first impression

NEW YORK - After further review …

Kenny Pickett got one thing completely wrong after a dizzying debut that dazzled initially and disappointed eventually.

"I don't know what I proved to anybody, we didn't win," Pickett insisted.

Maybe that was the Pickett humility, one of the qualities that so intrigued the Steelers initially, doing the talking.

Maybe he really is all about the result, which would, likewise, be an admirable characteristic.

Either way, it's what Pickett put on display against the Jets, even in defeat, that's most intriguing of all.

It was just one half of one game, and it was a game in which a bad Pickett pitch to running back Jaylen Warren that resulted in a fumble and a negative play and a bad Pickett pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth that wound up being tipped and intercepted contributed to a lead being ceded and a game ultimately getting away.

But that said, the way Pickett played, how he attacked the game and his position, what he was willing to do and when, and the impact it had on his teammates and the proceedings is what might come to be remembered much longer than Jets 24, Steelers 20.

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 4 game against the New York Jets at Acrisure Stadium

A couple of examples resonate.

The first was Pickett's first NFL pass, a deep shot to wide receiver Chase Claypool that was ultimately deflected and intercepted.

"I told those guys, if they're 1-on-1, I'm going to give them a chance," Pickett insisted. "We all feel really good about that (wide) receiver room and how talented every guy in there is. Chase on a safety, I'm going to take that and give him a chance.

"The ball, sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way. That time it didn't, I get that. But he's said he's going to go get it. I told him I'm going to throw him more passes. I'm not gun shy to throw down the field to him at all. Definitely want to work the continuity as soon as possible."

A similar go-for-it throw amid similar 1-on-1 circumstances to wide receiver George Pickens was completed for 26 yards late in the fourth quarter and would have gone a long way toward helping the Steelers put the game away if not for the bad pitch and the bad pass.

These were the type of throws the Steelers had said they'd be making in the preseason.

They hadn't been attempted often enough prior to Sunday.

There was also a stand-and-deliver, 18-yard completion to Freiermuth to the Jets' 2-yard line on which Pickett got blasted by Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.

Pickett saw Willams coming as the play unfolded but had no issue whatsoever with hanging in there as long as necessary.

"It's not tough, man, it's in the job description," Pickett maintained. "My job is to stand in there and make throws."

Pickett also repeatedly made plays with his legs, the most impressive of which was a play-action, bootleg-keeper on which Pickett cut back and then lowered his shoulder at the goal line while in the process of scoring from 2 yards away.

Pickett is confident he can consistently make such plays.

"I am," he confirmed.

Those, too, had been too infrequently relied upon prior to Sunday.

Perhaps the most compelling element of Pickett's performance was the intangible factor he sought to deliver.

Pickett wasn't sure if he provided the "spark" head coach Mike Tomlin had been seeking, but the game Pickett played had a personality and an enthusiasm that was energizing.

"I just play with an edge," he said. "That's something I wanted to bring to the table. I want that to rub off on everybody. I want us to have an attitude when it's out there on the field."

It wasn't perfect.

And it wasn't good enough to win.

But it was enough to suspect Pickett is who the Steelers thought he was, at least at first blush as a rookie quarterback taking is first steps in the NFL.

The next time he's called upon, the anticipation should outweigh the trepidation.

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