A number of players since the end of Sunday’s game have come out and said that the Pittsburgh Steelers did not really change their offense, at all, when Kenny Pickett came into the game at quarterback in the second half. The only thing that changed was the level of execution, not what they were asked to do.
Second-year tight end Pat Freiermuth said the same thing on Monday, the day after the game, commenting on how he felt that they as an offense were able to play more of an attack role in the second half rather than with Mitch Trubisky in the first half despite running the same plays.
“I don’t think you ever want to be held back on offense. I think you always want to continue to [take] shots and try to be the aggressor, and I think with Kenny in there we were able to be the aggressor”, he said, via the team’s website.
In terms of ‘being the aggressor’, it should be noted that it’s not as though Trubisky necessarily lacked for deep passing attempts, if we define aggressive offensive play with long balls. That’s an overly simplistic interpretation, however. As for Pickett, four of his 13 pass attempts were deep, but that includes his two final passes on the end-game two-play drive, including the intercepted Hail Mary.
“I think the plays were the same. I think it was Kenny just going in there and letting it fly, and I think we have to continue to build on that”, Freiermuth said. “Obviously, some mistakes are gonna happen on tip balls and all that kind of stuff, we’re gonna have to continue to work past that and be there for Kenny, especially since he’s a young guy”.
Pickett threw three interceptions, although one could offer some justification for each of them, two of which touched a receiver’s hands first. His first interception on a deep pass to Chase Claypool was not well-placed, turning it into a jump-ball situation, but Claypool did not play it well. And Hail Marys are a crapshoot to begin with.
The only successful deep ball Pickett through outside of the end of the game against a prevent defense was a 3rd-and-3 pass to George Pickens with 4:55 to play, at the Steelers’ 43, setting themselves up on the Jets’ 31.
Unfortunately, the next play was that botched pitch to Jaylen Warren that came up short after Pickett got his feet tangled up with one of his linemen, ultimately resulting in a five-yard loss. The next play was the interception to Freiermuth, spoiling a promising drive that began at their own 25.
The defense couldn’t get them the ball back until there were just 16 seconds left in the game, and by then, they had already given up the lead, so it was a mess from all angles. If that one drive had gone differently, who knows what the conversations would be like this week.