From the Press Room: Steelers vs. Jets

Related: Game Story

Needing a spark: Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin felt the Steelers needed a spark after going into halftime down 10-6. So, he made a change at quarterback, sending rookie Kenny Pickett out to play the second half, replacing veteran Mitch Trubisky.

"We just thought we needed a spark," said Tomlin. "We didn't do much in the first half, not enough offensively and thought he could provide a spark for us."

Pickett completed 10 of 13 passes for 120 yards, adding two rushing touchdowns, and three interceptions, one coming on the final play of the game as Pickett tried to pull out a last second win.

"I thought he did some good things," said Tomlin. "I thought there was some energy there. We scored some touchdowns. But obviously we also turned the ball over."

Tomlin didn't give any indication if Pickett will start next week when the Steelers head to Buffalo to take on the Bills, instead opting to wait until the upcoming week to talk about it.

"I'm not going to talk extended as we sit here," said Tomlin. "We did what we needed to do to put ourselves in position to win this game. We'll do it again. But I like to just keep it where we are in terms of what transpired here today. We'll deal with next week, next week."

The 24-20 loss dropped the Steelers to 1-3 on the season, and Tomlin kept it simple. Everyone had to perform better.

"We're disappointed, but what transpired is not anything mystical," said Tomlin. "That's what we talked about as a collective in there. No disrespect to the Jets. They made plays and won the football game. But it's not about who we play.

"It's not about rabbits foots and so forth. We've got to play better. We've got to put them in better position. We've got to perform better. And I'm talking about the collection of players and coaches in there.

"It's very tangible and fundamental things. I thought we were highly penalized particularly in the first half. I thought it killed some drives.

"Obviously, we've got to possess the ball better. We've got to get necessary stops when we need them. We've just got to do a better job than we did today.

"It's not broad, sweeping things, but it's never broad, sweeping things in the NFL, man. It's a fine line in this business between winning and losing.

"Acknowledging that, we have to absorb the negativity with our current position men and roll our sleeves up and remain resolute and keep working. We intend to do that."

The Steelers had four injuries on the defensive side of the ball, the most notable was safety Terrell Edmunds who left the game with a concussion and is in the protocol. Cameron Heyward had an ankle and elbow injury, Cameron Sutton a hamstring injury and Minkah Fitzpatrick a knee injury.

"Don't have a lot of information there," said Tomlin. "I'm sure I'll be able to update you guys the next time we come together."

Disappointed with the outcome: The emotions accompanying his first NFL appearance, his first two NFL touchdowns and the fans repeatedly chanting his name at Acrisure Stadium didn't resonate with Kenny Pickett as much as the sting of Jets 24, Steelers 20.

"Just disappointed," Pickett maintained. "Wanted to come in and get the win so that's really just the emotions, just disappointed we didn't come out with the outcome we worked so hard for.

"Definitely something we need to learn from and move on."

Pickett replaced Mitch Trubisky at quarterback on the Steelers' first possession of the third quarter.

Pickett's first carry was a fourth-and-1 sneak from the Steelers' 31-yard line that went for 2 yards and a first down.

His first pass was a deep shot to wide receiver Chase Claypool that got tipped and eventually was intercepted by safety Jordan Whitehead, a former teammate of Pickett's at Pitt.

Pickett wound up completing 10 of 13 passing attempts for 120 yards and three interceptions, including a game-ending "Hail Mary" from the Jets' 48.

He also rushed six times for 15 yards and two touchdowns.

Pickett's second interception was the most regretful.

A sideline pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth on second-and-15 from the Jets' 46 with 3:42 left in regulation was thrown under pressure and thrown high by design but not high enough.

The ball glanced off Freiermuth's extended hands and was eventually intercepted by cornerback Michael Carter.

The Jets turned the turnover into a 10-play, 65-yard drive for a touchdown that used all but 16 seconds of what was left on the clock .

"I wanted it higher than that, definitely," Pickett said. "Either Pat was going to get it or it was going to be out of bounds. I didn't put it high enough.

"I cannot throw an interception there. We want to be aggressive but at the same time the clock was our friend there and I wanted to possess the ball and not do that and give them good field position. So I can't make that mistake."

Head coach Mike Tomlin turned to Pickett initially, Tomlin said, because he thought the Steelers "needed a spark."

Pickett wasn't sure he provided one but took the field intending to be impactful on the game and his teammates.

"I don't know, man, I just play with an edge," Pickett explained. "That was something I wanted to bring to the table.

"I think there's a little bit of an edge to me. I want that to rub off on everybody. I want us to have an attitude when it's out there on the field."

Pickett also entered the game ready to execute whatever was called, he said, after preparing "like I'm a starter minus the reps.

"I told Coach (offensive coordinator Matt Canada) I was prepared," Pickett continued. "I knew every call in the plan. I told him, 'Don't change up just because I'm in there.' Let's let it rip and see what happens. I was prepared.

"Definitely didn't want to handcuff us in any situation. I wanted Coach to call the game. He called a great game. The plays were there, we made plays, but the turnovers killed us. It's definitely on me and I have to improve."

Working together: Cameron Heyward didn't hold back.

He knows the offense put the points on the board that were needed against the Jets, with two touchdowns in the second half.

What bothers him, though, is the defense wasn't able to do what was needed to help the Steelers secure a win.

"As a defense, we didn't get off the field enough especially in the second half," said Heyward. "And that's going to haunt me."

He continued, noticeably bothered by it.

"We have to work together on defense," said Heyward. "If we hit home up front, we've got to make sure we're good on the back end. When the back end holds up and buys us extra time, we've got to finish those plays.

"Not enough coordination through the entire defense. And not enough attention to detail. I know that's easy to say, but it comes down to that. The little things. And fitting in your gaps. Understanding if we push it up field and we string it out, we all have to get to the ball.

"Understanding angles. I think we did an okay job in the run game, but too much of that. And I think first down was critical for us in the first half because when we were able to win on first down, it kind of set us up for second and third. It didn't allow them to just get to second-and-5 because when you got to second-and-5, your whole playbook opens up.

"I think that really put us in a tough spot, and when we did dominate that first down play, it really set them back. And then it came down to third downs in the fourth quarter and we just didn't get off the field.

"You like to think third down, your money down, your attention picks up to detail. Understanding what type of rushes you're doing. Sometimes they would go to different fronts to buy extra time in the max pro look, and we didn't clean that up as a front. We didn't hit home enough. And then when we did hit home, we didn't clean up on the back end.

"It's a cycle where we all have to work together. If one guy wants to eat, he better depend on the other 10 to eat. And the other 10 have to do their job. We all have to be accountable to make these plays and be a good defense."

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