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Steelers turn to Pickett, lose to the Jets, 24-20

After watching his team's offense struggle through another first half, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had seen enough.

He made the switch at quarterback from veteran Mitch Trubisky to rookie Kenny Pickett.

Pickett gave the offense a bit of a spark, but also made some rookie mistakes, as the Steelers fell, 24-20, to the New York Jets here at Acrisure Stadium.

Trubisky was 7 of 13 for 84 yards and a tipped interception, but had led the Steelers (1-3) to just six points in the first half as they trailed 10-6. He also was sacked three times.

Pickett finished 10 of 13 for 120 yards but three interceptions. He also scored a pair of rushing touchdowns to help set up a day in which the Steelers rushed for 119 yards, including a season-high 74 on 18 carries for Najee Harris.

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

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

Pickett did do that, as the Steelers scored 14 second-half points. But it still wasn't enough for the Steelers to escape with a victory, as they turned the ball over four times and lost their third consecutive game.

"We just didn't make the plays that needed to be made," said linebacker Alex Highsmith, who had the Steelers' only sack in the game, giving him 5.5 for the season.

Pickett's first career pass was intercepted by former Pitt teammate and current Jets safety Jordan Whitehead on a deep pass intended for Chase Claypool. Claypool and a defender leaped for the pass at the New York 10, but it tipped off their hands and into those of Whitehead.

But Minkah Fitzpatrick returned the favor, intercepting Zach Wilson off a pass that tipped off the hands of tight end Tyler Conklin, returning it 34 yards to the New York 4.

Pickett scored from inside the 1 on third down on a QB sneak to give the Steelers their first lead, 13-10, with 7:18 remaining in the third quarter.

"Kenny gave us a spark," said Claypool. "You could feel the energy in the stadium when he was in there."

The defense again held up, forcing the Jets (2-2) to punt and Pickett directed an 82-yard touchdown drive, finishing it off himself again with his second touchdown run, this one from 2 yards out to give the Steelers a 20-10 lead with 13:36 remaining in the game.

Pickett converted three third downs on the drive, once on a scramble, with the second two coming on passes to fellow rookie George Pickens and tight end Pat Freiermuth.

The Jets answered that with a touchdown of their own, converting three third-downs on an 81-yard drive, scoring on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to wide receiver Corey Davis with 7:31 remaining in the fourth quarter to make it 20-17.

Pickett was then intercepted on the Steelers' next possession with the team driving to put the game away. Pickett's second-down pass from the New York 36 was high to Freiermuth and tipped off his hands and into the waiting arms of safety Michael Carter, giving the Jets the ball back at their own 35 with just under four minutes remaining in the game.

"(I'm) Just disappointed," Pickett said. "(I) Wanted to come in and get the win. So, that's really just the emotions. (It's) Definitely something we need to learn from and move on."

The Jets drove 65 yards for a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Breece Hall with 16 seconds remaining to put New York ahead 24-20.

The Steelers got the ball to midfield on the game's final play, but Pickett's final desperation pass was intercepted in the end zone.

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

The Steelers had a promising drive going on the game's opening possession, but were penalized for guard James Daniels being downfield early on a run-pass option play after moving into New York territory and were forced to punt.

The Steelers forced a three-and-out on New York's first possession, but after a punt, Trubisky's pass on first-and-10 deflected off the hands of Diontae Johnson and into the hands of Jets safety Lamarcus Joyner for an interception.

That set up a 38-yard field goal by Greg Zeuerlein that gave the Jets a 3-0 lead.

They grabbed a 10-0 lead on their next possession, driving 70 yards, with Wilson connecting with Elijah Moore for a 20-yard gain on third-and-7 from the New York 33 being the play that kick-started the series. Wilson capped the possession off by catching a 2-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Braxton Berrios, who had taken a pitch on a double reverse, to give New York a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.

The Steelers finally got on the board, scoring on their ensuing possession, though it wasn't the touchdown they had hoped for. Trubisky threw a 23-yard pass to Johnson in the back of the end zone that was initially ruled an incompletion, but Tomlin challenged the play. Replay showed the front of Johnson's foot was narrowly out of bounds while he drug his back foot and the play call was upheld.

Instead, the Steelers settled for a 51-yard Boswell field goal that cut the Jets' advantage to 10-3.

The Jets appeared to be poised to increase their advantage just before the half, but Cam Sutton intercepted a Wilson pass inside the Pittsburgh 10 and returned it 26 yards to the 30, giving the Steelers the ball back with 20 seconds left in the second quarter.

Trubisky completed a 14-yard pass to Freiermuth, but his final pass, a Hail Mary attempt, was intercepted. However, Jets defensive end Carl Lawson was called for roughing Trubisky on the play, moving the ball to the New York 41, and Boswell kicked a 59-yard field goal to make it 10-6 at the half.

The field goal matched the longest of Boswell's career and in team history.