Unfortunately, we have another loss to discuss following the Pittsburgh Steelers late game collapse where the Steelers surrendered a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets, where Quarterback Mitch Trubisky was benched for Kenny Pickett, who played the entire second half and led some quality drives. The biggest keys were turnovers (Steelers four, Jets two) along with sacks, where Trubisky took three on key third down situations and only one sack for Pittsburgh’s defense, and penalties loomed large for an all-familiar painful loss coming down to the end, 20-24. In this article I will provide data from Pro Football Focus and takeaways from watching the film.
Let’s start with the offense:
PFF’s highest graded offensive player for week four is wide receiver George Pickens (87.5), providing six catches on eight targets and 102 yards, for a much stronger 75% catch rate compared to his 41.7% through the first three games. He provided three of the teams four explosive receptions in his strong game. The other went to Pittsburgh tight end Pat Freiermuth, who also had a plus 80 grade (83.7) on his team high nine targets, seven receptions, and 85 yards, but no receiving touchdowns in the game for any Steeler, and no wide receiver has gotten into the end zone through four full games, though wide receiver Diontae Johnson was close but no cigar, unable to get the second foot down in the back of the end zone, crazy.
No other Steeler has a 70+ grade, highlighting some stale performances across the board, but personally center Mason Cole (the only lineman who wasn’t penalized, with two on guard Kevin Dotson) and guard James Daniels deserved better grades, and agreed with the other line grades. Pittsburgh quarterback Mitch Trubisky struggled (60.7), going 7/13 (53.8%) for 84 yards (6.5 per attempt) with no touchdowns and an interception. Most frustrating were the three situational sacks he took, costing the team on third down. Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett fared better (66.9) in an up and down debut, going 10/13 (76.9%) for 120 yards (9.2 per attempt), no touchdowns and three interceptions, one off Claypool’s hand, with the late one off Freiermuth’s hands setting up New York’s game winning drive, and the last on a desperation hail mary at the very end. He did provide a valuable spark as a runner, providing two touchdowns on a sneak and outside scramble.
The only player with a below 50 grade was wide receiver Chase Claypool, who had three targets but no catches, with one of those a pass going off his hands for one of Pittsburgh’s four interceptions.
Pittsburgh’s offense came out to start the game, beginning with running back Najee Harris on the ground for a healthy six-yard run, behind good blocks from Daniels and tackle Dan Moore sealing their men, Cole, guard Kevin Dotson on the second level, and tackle Chukwuma Okorafor losing his block early along with Freiermuth out in front to hit linebacker C.J. Mosely who easily worked off the block for the tackle. On second and a manageable four, Trubisky play action rolled to his right and found Freiermuth for the catch against tight coverage just past the sticks for the first down.
The following first down was a Harris run, once again for a gain of six on the toss enjoyably away from the Jets strong defensive line, with wide receiver Miles Boykin and Okorafor with good blocks out in front, but fullback Derek Watt was unable to land his lead block and Moore losing his block backside allowed the tackle. On second and four, another play action where Trubisky enjoyed plenty of time in the pocket with Daniels and Okorafor allowing a push late on the downfield heave, but the pass floated and allowed the safety to break up the explosive pass attempt to Pickens. Third and four now, and Trubisky triggers quickly on the stop/out route to Freiermuth for another first down (his second already) just past the sticks. Encouraging start for the offense so far.
The drive continued with a Harris run with Daniels and Cole pulling with good blocks, especially from the former on the gain of three along with an impressive punch from Okorafor to knock his man to the ground but Dotson also ended up there slipping off his. On second and seven Daniels was penalized for ineligible man downfield reminiscent of last week, negating a would-be good throw and contested catch by Pickens against rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner. Instead second and 12, where Trubisky faked to Harris then flipped the reverse to Johnson, and really enjoyed the motion from Watt as a tight end who pulled to sell the fake then reversed field to connect on a great downfield block, along with Zach Gentry getting just enough of his man to clear space, and good effort by wide receiver Gunner Olsewzki on the gain of eight. Third and a manageable four, Okorafor allowed a push cuing Trubisky to step up, and Moore got away with a hold as he scrambled but the short area targets were well covered and was met by two interior d-lineman on the short gain of one. The penalty looms large, stalling the opening drive that was overall encouraging.
At 7:41 in the first quarter and the game still scoreless, the offense came out empty and Trubisky sees the slant route but not the dropping defensive lineman who tipped the pass to Johnson, but goes off his hands and intercepted on the discouraging early turnover. Didn’t like the empty set after run successes on the first drive, quickly back to the sideline.
The offense returned at 4:03 and down by three, starting with a jet sweep to Olszewzki with Freiermuth out in front, who was able to connect his block with one of the two flowing linebackers, with the other lighting him up on the cutback for no gain. On second and ten, Trubisky found Pickens on the five-yard comeback getting separation on the defensive back and catch. Third and five now, and Daniels was beat on the pass rush with Okorafor late to help, cuing Trubisky to scramble left, finding Warren on the crossing route but his pass is completed but behind, allowing the defender to catch up and make the tackle just short of the sticks. Three and out.
With 12:31 in the second quarter down by ten, Harris got the first down carry behind a good double team from Cole and Dotson for the pancake along with Moore getting the seal to provide a hole on the three-yard gain. On second and seven, Dotson was dinged for holding on another early o-line penalty. This set up second and 16, where Okorafor got pushed back late on Trubisky’s dropback, but unleashes it for a refreshingly good read and deep pass over the middle to Pickens at the sticks, and with ample separation was able to add another ten yards after the catch.
The following first down was an opportunity for Jaylen Warren on the ground, but Daniels ended up on the ground where the gain was limited to three yards. On second and seven Warren got the toss to the right, with Cole ferociously throwing his man to the ground at the snap (really playing aggressively and well), along with a great seal from Boykin, with Okorafor and Watt pulling out in front with great blocks on the same design as earlier in the first quarter, allowing the cutback and gain of 14-yards. Really enjoying the success and physicality from the o-line in the run game along with the explosive play over the middle.
Another chunk here on the ground, behind great pulling blocks from Daniels (who sealed the edge) and Cole along with strong back side blocks from Okorafor, Gentry, and Dotson providing a huge running lane for Harris who also showed great effort to churn for great yards after contact on the gain of 13. Love seeing the run game flourish, here on back-to-back chunk plays.
Another first down run here, this time Harris is stopped for a short gain of two where Okorafor and Freiermuth had decent blocks, but the rest of the line allowed four players to converge to the ball on the stop. On second and eight, Trubisky patiently surveyed and made a great throw despite Moore losing his block late (and then being pancaked) allowing the quarterback hit on the release and double coverage, threading the needle to Johnson in the back of the end zone for what appeared to be a fantastic touchdown, but the second foot was just barely out of bounds. Big miss here that would have been huge for an offense needing momentum, especially knowing Johnson’s ability in the toe-tap department. Pittsburgh’s challenge was upheld, setting up third and eight, and Trubisky has his eyes glued downfield as he holds on to it, despite two wide open receivers underneath and has to know to get rid of it in the situation but instead takes the sack, allowed by Dotson who was beat around the outside late. Huge missed opportunity, but get the long field goal to cut the deficit to seven.
The offense returned with 7:33 left in the second quarter, and Trubisky came out firing downfield once again, with good pass pro from Harris to push the blitzer past the pocket and Dotson allowing late penetration, this time to Freiermuth who made a great contested catch over Mosley for the explosive gain of 24 yards. The following first down Johnson was dinged for an illegal shift, and penalties are mounting, this being the fourth of the game on Pittsburgh. Now first and 15, and good interior run blocking once again, particularly from Dotson and Daniels along with Okorafor on the gain of six. On second and nine, and it’s a dropback against a three-man rush with Okorafor getting beat, but Trubisky tries to slide out instead of stepping up, taking another sack. Third and a long 18 now, and Okorafor is beat on the outside once again on back-to-back plays, and Trubisky gets rid of it but over wide receiver Chase Claypool’s head and out of bounds, incomplete. Third down and penalty issues ailing the offense, forcing the punt.
With 3:43 until halftime and the deficit still seven, Harris took the delayed handoff but was met behind the line due to Cole being pushed back, and tackled for a loss of three. On second and 13, Daniels blocked his man to the ground along with Okorafor recovering late on another deep target from Trubisky, this one to Pickens but great coverage from Gardner to break up the underthrown 50-50 ball. Third and 13 now, and Pittsburgh’s fifth penalty is as untimely as they come, with a false start on Moore setting up third and 18. It did not get better for Moore here, losing his block around the edge and allowing the hit on Trubisky’s blindside, but despite good effort to escape is brought down for the third time, on yet another untimely third down. Excruciating.
One more opportunity with 20 seconds before the half off and down by seven, Trubisky was able to find Freiermuth on the short stop route, and nice YAC effort and hard run to gain 14 yards, and timeout taken with 12 seconds left. The following first down was back to Freiermuth, who had a chance to make the catch but unable against tight coverage and ten defenders dropping back in coverage. Second and ten with nine seconds left, and Trubisky launches the hail mary pass that’s intercepted, but a big break for Pittsburgh with a roughing the passer penalty, so instead of the turnover puts Boswell in position for the long field goal which is good. Take the points any way you can, Steelers cut deficit to four.
Pittsburgh made a big decision to bench Trubisky and bring out quarterback Kenny Pickett for his season debut to start the second half. The offense’s first opportunity came at 13:53, beginning with a Harris run up the middle behind a great push from Daniels along with a good seal from Gentry for four yards and noted Okorafor on the ground. On second and six, it was Harris again with a great block from Cole in the backfield along with Dotson and Gentry clearing some space for the five-yard gain. Third and one now, and it’s Harris again for the third straight play, but the run is stopped short with Moore allowing his man to penetrate along with the safety coming free off the edge to make the tackle. Big fourth and one now, and Pickett falls forward behind Daniels for the sneak and conversion on the gain of two, great refreshing element we as Steelers fans aren’t accustomed to seeing and keeps the drive moving.
The following first down was a sweep to Johnson, and the Jets are penalized for unnecessary roughness, hitting him while he was down on a big 15-yard penalty. First down once again, and Pickett drops back for his first NFL pass, a deep target to Claypool who loses the contested catch off his hands and intercepted on the deflection. Tough catch but one he should make, unfortunate way for Pickett’s first interception on as many passes and the second interception for the offense. Ugh.
The offense returned at 8:45 in the third quarter off a huge answer with Fitzpatrick providing the big interception with great field position: first and goal at the four. Pickett ran an unsurprising flip pass call (overdone in my opinion) this team loves in the red zone, with Gentry making the catch and gaining two yards. On second and goal, Harris gets the handoff where Daniels and Cole provided a big hole, but instead elects to run left, able to slither through a tiny crease between Dotson and Moore but stopped short for only one yard. Third and goal now, and Pickett gets his number called his second sneak already, getting behind Daniels again, this time stood up initially, showing great toughness and churn on the second effort along with Cole and Harris there to help push him in for the one-yard touchdown. Big interception by the Pittsburgh defense to set up the touchdown following Pickett’s interception, crazy stretch that thankfully gives Pittsburgh their first lead, 13-10.
With 5:07 in the third quarter, Pickett came out with an affective play action, followed by an excellent throw with pressure coming to Freiermuth for 14 yards on an intermediate out route for the catch and first down. Harris got the carry here, with a great cut in the backfield to elude the tackle due to penetration allowed by Cole, providing a second strong cut to make another guy miss and get behind solid second level blocks from Dotson, Gentry, and Freiermuth, capped off with a strong churn for another nice 16-yard chunk play. Third first down in a row, and Pickett finds Freiermuth once again, this time on a quick out route target off play action with Okorafor beat soundly around the edge off the snap on the four-yard gain. On second and six, back to Harris on the ground, but this one goes for no gain with Daniels and Cole pulling out in front, but the latter getting blown up to the ballcarrier along with Gentry falling off his, each allowing the combined tackle. Third and six now, and Pickett drops back and shows good pocket awareness to escape, as Daniels was blocked back handedly on a poor twist pickup, able to scramble around the edge thanks to an Okorafor block and pick up the first down on the gain of seven.
The drive continued with a Warren run up the middle, but only gains one yard with Cole unable to land a block and the linebacker coming in free for the tackle. On second and nine, Pickett got the pass out quick to Pickens who ran the quick out, and while the catch wasn’t clean, was able to make it and elude the first tackle for a bit of YAC on the five-yard gain. Third and four now, Harris whiffed on the pass block with poor technique lowering his head, along with Daniels missing this rusher as well, but Pickett is able to get the pass off regardless to Pickens once again, a fantastically placed back shoulder throw on the sideline, and great job to secure the catch inbounds despite the tight contest for the 13-yard gain. Big and encouraging conversion and keep the great drive going. The following first down dampened the mood with the second ineligible man downfield penalty for Pittsburgh in the game, this time on Dotson setting up first and 15. Harris got the carry, gaining four yards straight ahead behind a combo block from Daniels and Dotson, but noted a bigger hole created by Cole and Okorafor he didn’t hit.
Tenth play of the drive to start the fourth quarter, and it’s Harris on the ground again on second and 11 for a three-yard gain, with Freiermuth pulling in front along with Daniels late to react off the double team, allowing the tackle. Third and eight from the red zone now, and Pickett shows great toughness in the pocket, standing tall and taking a big hit with pressure allowed by Dotson, but finds Freiermuth for a big third down conversion up the seam for the big 18-yard gain. First and goal, and it’s a run pass option, faking to Harris and calling his own number to scramble off the edge for his second rushing touchdown. Great start for Pickett sans the interception (which I put more on Claypool), very encouraging drive for an offense that has lacked them overall, Steelers up by ten.
The offense returned with 7:31 left in the game and the lead cut to three. On first down, Pickett finds Johnson on the quick out, providing a good cut and churn for five yards. On second and five, it was right back to Johnson, this time a screen that was able to gain of six with good YAC due to ample cushion for the first down. Pickett play actions here, and despite good protection decides to scramble, making it to the sideline but pushed out hard on the gain of three. On second and seven, Harris got the carry and able to gain four yards, limited by Freiermuth running right past a defender on his pulling block along with Dotson missing his, each allowing the combined tackle. Third and three now, and another encouraging connection between Pickett and Pickens on the back shoulder throw for an explosive 26 yards, and huge third down conversion.
The following first down was a scare, with Pickett tossing to Warren but charged with a fumble on the botched exchange, but Warren able to scoop it up to avoid the turnover but a loss of five. This was short lived, with Pickett throwing to Freiermuth, bouncing off his hands and intercepted, Pickett’s second and the team’s third all off the hands of receivers. Insane, another game going to the wire.
The Steelers got the ball back with 16 seconds left following a devastating late comeback, now down by four points. Pickett was able to find Pickens deep over the middle on the catch for 27 yards, timeout with the ball at the Jets 48 and eight seconds left. Pickett then attempted one last hail mary, heaving it to the back of the end zone but out of Claypool’s reach and intercepted. Game over, unbelievable loss to fall to 1-3.
Now for the defense:
PFF’s highest graded player in the game was safety Terrell Edmunds (84.3), playing very well downhill but was knocked out of the game on a big hit just before halftime. The remaining defenders with 70+ grades are all defensive lineman: Cameron Heyward (80), Larry Ogunjobi (79), and Chris Wormley (74.1) leading the charge in a good game against the run, limiting the Jets to 98 yards. Heyward and Ogunjobi also fared well with three pressures each, and the latter providing two quarterback hits. Also agreed with the remaining grades on the top right as well. Four players have grades below 50: linebacker Robert Spillane (47.7) particularly struggling in coverage including an explosive catch, edge rusher Malik Reed (47.1), defensive lineman Tyson Alualu (40.3), and the lowest grade of the week on defense (39.5) is cornerback Levi Wallace allowing three catches on his six targets, with one being an explosive gain.
Pittsburgh’s defense came out with 9:57 in the first quarter to a carry from running back Michael Carter, and good run stop by linebacker Devin Bush staying clean of the pulling tight ends block to tackle the gain of three along with good push from defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi and Montravius Adams (who got the start) but Cameron Heyward pushed back on a double team. On second and seven, running back Breece Hall got the next rushing opportunity where the defense provided great run fits, particularly from Ogunjobi, fellow defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal setting the edge, and edge rusher Alex Highsmith pursuing from the backside down the line to combine with Leal for the tackle for no gain. Third and seven now, and quarterback Zach Wilson’s first pass of the season goes to rookie Garrett Wilson for from the slot, with a favorable matchup against cornerback Arthur Maulet (known as a run defender), but makes a solid tackle on the route short of the sticks for six yards and the three and out. Great start by the defense, still scoreless.
The defense returned quickly after one offensive play (intercepted) with 7:35 in the first quarter, and great play by Highsmith to walk the tackle back and work off the block inside for the sack thanks to a good push by Ogunjobi up the middle to push Zach Wilson his way. On second and 14 Zach Wilson rolls left quickly with Leal throwing off his blocker and good pursuit, but is able to gain nine yards on the scramble with Bush running him out of bounds. Third and five now, and Hall gets the stretch handoff where Highsmith was blocked upfield, linebacker Myles Jack set the edge well, but the rusher is able to slither through with Heyward and linebacker Robert Spillane pushed back, with Ogunjobi making the tackle but gets just enough for the first down.
The following first down Bush came flying in on the blitz getting his hands up and affecting Zach Wilson’s throw hitting the turf with no one home for the incompletion. On second and ten, Carter got another carry where Ogunjobi got good initial penetration but unable to bring him down for the tackle for loss, and great job by Leal to continue to work through his block along with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick shooting down to combine on the tackle for no gain. Third and ten now, and great push from Heyward despite the double team, but Zach Wilson able to get the short pass off to Hall and great reaction by Fitzpatrick to get to him quickly and tackle the gain of six despite a broken tackle attempt on the spin move. Very encouraging, with strong tackling against New York’s backs a big key going into the game and holding them to a field goal off the turnover. Steelers down three.
With 2:05 left in the first quarter and the same scoreboard, the handoff went to Hall where Spillane shot into the backfield but missed the angle/tackle opportunity, and good backside pursuit from Leal along with Bush splitting two tight end block attempts to combine for the tackle. On second and seven, Highsmith beat the right tackle to get to Zach Wilson on his deep dropback, but is able to elude the near sack attempt, along with Heyward missing a diving opportunity as well, and continuing to run for dear life is just able to throw the ball away with Jack bearing down for the quarterback hit. Third and seven now, and great collective effort to collapse the pocket, including Highsmith, Bush, Jack, and defensive lineman Chris Wormley, but able to get the deep comeback on target to Elijah Moore, who gained separation on cornerback Levi Wallace who slipped on the break of the route allowing the explosive catch for 20 yards, after Maulet and fellow cornerback Cameron Sutton missed opportunities on the attempt for yards after catch, but Wallace and Spillane combined for the tackle to limit such attempts. Unfortunate big play and third down conversion. The following first down was a Hall run, where Wormley won immediately with the swim inside to cut off the designed run lane in the backfield, but is able to cut back up the middle for three yards.
The drive continued to start the second quarter, and on second and seven it was back to Elijah Moore for another explosive play of 28 yards, beating the Steelers zone with Wallace and Spillane both playing the short route and allowing him to leak free wide open up the seam, but good hustle and pursuit from Jack to make the downfield tackle. Ouch. This set the Jets up in the red zone, giving to Carter and good play from Sutton to meet him at the line of scrimmage on the edge but allowed a churn for three yards. On second and seven, Carter and Hall were in the backfield with the latter getting another outside carry, where Ogunjobi, Highsmith, and Spillane were all blocked well along with Carter blocking Wallace out in front, all contributing to the gain of nine yards where Fitzpatrick pushed him out.
First and goal from the four, Highsmith stayed clean of the pulling tight end on the edge along with Jack doing the same to shoot in for the combined tackle, but was able to gain two yards behind Adams being pushed back by a double team that created space. This set up second and goal where the receiver got the reverse, flipped it to another on the double reverse, and with the defense biting on this trick play action let Zach Wilson leak free for his first touchdown of the season, for the unexpected touchdown catch on the trick play. Discouraging ten-point deficit to climb out of early with two explosive catches proving costly on the long drive.
Now 8:20 in the second quarter and down by seven, Elijah Moore got the jet swing pass with room to roam following Highsmith and Bush biting hard on the play fake, but great job by safety Terrell Edmunds to crash down hard as well as Maulet taking on the blocker on the edge to limit the would-be big gain to two yards. On second and eight, Zach Wilson was off target, out in front of Garrett Wilson on the screen pass falling incomplete. Third and eight now, and good pass rush from Pittsburgh beginning with edge rusher Malik Reed who was unable to get there due to a missed holding call, along with Ogunjobi missing a diving attempt as Zach Wilson rolled out, and Highsmith coming up to force the decision to throw to the sideline where Fitzpatrick nearly made an excellent interception but was ruled out of bounds. Big miss, especially following the missed touchdown on offense just prior, but huge stand on a short field for another three and out. Still down by seven.
At 5:22 in the second quarter and the scoreboard remaining, Highsmith demolished Carter but it was a play action, allowing Zach Wilson to roll and target Hall down the sideline from the slot, and good play from Wallace to recovery and challenge the catch falling incomplete. On second and ten, Heyward got a good push with a long arm along with a great edge rush from Leal, but the play action sucked both Jack and Bush up on the quick trigger pass to tight end Tyler Conklin short over the middle wide open with explosive YAC on the gain of 26 yards where Edmunds and Maulet finally brought him down.
The following first down was a fantastic run stop, where Ogunjobi darted into the backfield, unable to make the play but forcing the back to cut, with Leal getting there quickly and Heyward combining to make the tackle for a loss of four. On second and 14, good push from Ogunjobi and Leal, with Zach Wilson leaving the pocket and just able to get the pass of with Bush bearing down for the quarterback hit, once again affecting the throw out in front of Hall incomplete with Jack in coverage. Third and 14 now, and Ogunjobi did great job to throw his blocker and provide another quarterback hit on the release, targeting Garrett Wilson with Maulet in perfect position but unable to come down with the interception. Second missed takeaway opportunity, but another third down stop though.
The defense returned with 2:32 left in the half to a Hall run, and great tackle to stop the run for no gain by Maulet on the corner blitz. Second and ten at the two-minute warning, and good collective push from the d-line (Highsmith, Ogunjobi, Heyward, Leal) to collapse the pocket on Zach Wilson’s quick throw to Elijah Moore on the five yard out, and good reaction from off coverage by Wallace to push him out for no YAC. Third and five now, and Maulet was called for defensive holding on the critical down, giving New York another scoring opportunity, and Edmunds provided a big hit jarring the ball loose at the catch point, but was injured on the play and would not return to the game, another big secondary injury to endure.
The following first down was a toss to Carter to the right, who threw it back to Zach Wilson but dropped the lateral pass but unluckily was able to scoop it up with one hand and shovel it out of bounds for the throwaway with Highsmith and Heyward in the vicinity, wow. On second and ten, Ogunjobi overran the Hall run allowing a crease between he and Leal, and Jack blocked on the second level, all allowing a big 16 yard run where Fitzpatrick and safety Tre Norwood (in for Edmunds) finally combined for the tackle.
Another first down with just over a minute left, and the run got between Leal and Maulet’s backfield penetration, but good job by Highsmith to push his blocker back, with Hall colliding into him and Norwood flying in to try and stick the hit as he fell and credited with the tackle. On second and 11, Highsmith won around the edge but a no call on the o-lineman holding him up, allowing the deep target to get off over Leal’s outstretched hands, but thankfully incomplete with the receiver unable to keep his feet inbounds on the sideline with Wallace beat in coverage. Third and 11 now with 33 seconds left, and Heyward got a good push along with Reed winning inside late on Zach Wilson’s deep throw that was overthrown, and great play by Sutton to read the quarterback and come off his assignment and provide a big takeaway on the interception and explosive 26 yard run back! Huge play to keep New York from extending the lead before the half.
The defense came out first to start the second half to a Carter run, and great tackle for the run stop by Bush who came on the edge blitz on the one-yard gain. On second and nine, Zach Wilson got the pass off quick past the Heyward bat attempt to Garrett Wilson short over the middle, and nice aggressive hit by Fitzpatrick to force the incompletion. Third and nine now, and another incompletion to Garrett Wilson, this time a drop with him eying the potential hit as he went down for the low throw, incomplete with Maulet barring down in coverage. Another three and out by the defense to start things off, deficit is four.
With 10:59 in the third quarter, the defense returned following the Pickett interception to a play action short pass from Zach Wilson with Wormley in pursuit, finding the receiver wide open against the zone, and good hustle from Adams to chase the play down for the tackle. The following first down was a Hall run for three yards where Adams washed pushed back and to the ground on a double team, Bush taking on the pulling tight end block to limit the hole, and with Wormley working through his block along with Fitzpatrick combining for the tackle. On second and seven, it was back to Hall on the ground again, and great play by Jack on the run stop on the edge behind the line, wrapping him up allowing a churn, but only a one-yard gain. Third and six now, and Pittsburgh brings the blitz including great rush from Bush up the middle to pressure the pass to Garrett Wilson, another one off his hands and intercepted on the deflection by Fitzpatrick, also adding a great explosive return of 34 yards, nearly taking it in for the pick six but pushed out just shy. What a great answer by the defense, Pittsburgh still down 6-10.
Back with 7:18 in the third with the offense capitalizing with a touchdown and a three-point lead now, the defense returned to a Carter run where Heyward got a good push, Highsmith won inside, and Leal had a chance as he bounced outside to tackle him for a big loss but missed, losing the edge on the positive gain of five yards where Jack tackled him out of bounds. On second and five, Ogunjobi did a great job again to throw his blocker to the ground and get to Zach Wilson on his pass for the quarterback hit, along with Heyward in the vicinity, affecting the wobbly pass to Carter in the flat to avoid the sack, falling incomplete. Third and five now, Heyward got a good push again to provide some pressure, but Zach Wilson got the pass off to Conklin who was open over the middle, finding the soft spot in the zone for the intermediate catch and YAC for 18 yards and Norwood making the tackle.
The following first down was back to the ground with Hall, where Wormley was combo blocked back along with Adams initially washed, but each fought back to the ball to tackle the gain of five yards. On second and five, it’s a play action where Highsmith barreling in on his winning pass rush around the edge, but Zach Wilson once again is able to elude pressure, and drifts back with Spillane in pursuit to finally throw it away. Third and five now, and the Jets are penalized for a false start on the money down, setting up third and ten. Heyward got a nice push up the middle here, and Zach Wilson triggers to Hall who chipped and released to the flat, getting the target at the line of scrimmage and great read and react from Jack to get the nice hit at the catch point to break up the incompletion. Big penalty aids the Steelers stop, maintaining the three-point lead.
The defense returned with 13:30 in the fourth quarter and a ten-point lead now, and the pass goes to Carter on the quick out and Jack is there immediately with good man coverage and immediate aggressive tackle out of bounds on the gain of three. On second and seven, Carter got the handoff this time, and great interior play by Heyward to win inside along with Ogunjobi combining to tackle the one-yard gain. Third and six now, and Reed got a good rush and was debatably held, with Zach Wilson just getting the pass off to Garrett Wilson on the route across the field, beating Maulet in coverage from the slot who also missed a tackle, then avoiding an attempt by Norwood, and finally brought down by Fitzpatrick on the explosive 35-yard gain with YAC. Pittsburgh feeling the injuries in the secondary, ouch.
The drive continued with a first down pass intended for Conklin, with the pass inaccurate and behind with Bush providing the contact to ensure the incompletion. On second and ten, Hall got the carry with nowhere to go thanks to a great play by Wormley to get off his block and shoot the gap to cut off the run for the tackle and loss of three. Third and 13 now, and good looping pressure inside by Highsmith along with Heyward setting the edge, but Zach Wilson eludes for the scramble for six yards with Maulet coming up along with Heyward continuing to pursue and laying a solid hit on the six-yard gain and third down stop. Going for it on fourth and seven, Pittsburgh’s pass rush was stalled on the pass, with the wide receiver gaining separation on Maulet, who was beat on the second straight coverage play but was credited for the combined tackle with Norwood who came up to make the hit, but it’s another explosive 22-yard gain. Huge conversion allowed, can’t get off the field, gut wrenching.
First and ten from the red zone now, and Hall got the carry where edge rusher Ryan Anderson lost contain (called up from the practice squad) along with Bush committed to far inside, and Sutton taking on the outside block to set the edge but missing a tackle opportunity, with Bush continuing to pursue to push him out just shy of the end zone at the one-yard line. This set up first and goal, where the Jets suffer a false start penalty, thankfully for Pittsburgh pushing them back outside the five-yard line. The following first down was another Jets penalty, taking a turn with the ineligible man downfield call on a screen attempt, setting them back another five yards. Third attempt at first and goal from the 11, and Zach Wilson’s swing pass to the back is inaccurate, thankfully way out in front considering some room to run if it were completed. On second and goal, New York runs a wide receiver screen where Wallace was blocked out of the screen and Norwood was able to get there and tackle the six-yard gain. Big third and goal now from the five-yard line, and the pivot route by the wide receiver to the inside faked out Sutton, who fell to the ground allowing the easy touchdown. Long drive allowed by the defense, let’s them back in the game, Steelers lead trimmed, 20-17.
With 3:34 left in the game the defense returned with a three-point lead, Zach Wilson started will another chunk pass off play action, sucking up the linebackers to throw over the top/middle for 15 yards. The following first down was a Hall run, and great stop behind the line from Norwood staying clean through a gap for a loss of two. On second and 12, Hall got the short pass over the middle, and a thankful great open field tackle by Jack to limit the gain to six. Third and six now at the two-minute warning, and Conklin was unfortunately able to beat Spillane in coverage over the middle, with Fitzpatrick coming up to tackle the gain of eight but a huge conversion allowed. Stressed.
The following first down was an illegal block penalty on New York, setting up first and 20. Reed provided a good pass rush around the edge, hitting Zach Wilson on his pass to Carter in the flat, but big YAC with Maulet finally tackling the 11-yard gain. On second and nine, Alualu and Reed provided twisting pressure on Zach Wilson’s throw, but despite this threw an intermediate dart to the receiver for 17 yards, where Bush had good coverage to contest and tackled the catch, just a better offensive play and lack of pass rush from Pittsburgh.
Another first down with 1:10 left to play and in the red zone, nervous. Carter got the handoff here, and thankfully Jack was able to stay clean and make the tackle with good collective blocking elsewhere. On second and five, mammoth penalty on Alualu here, a defensive holding that set the Jets up with first and goal at the nine with 45 seconds left. Here we go again. Right away Hall got a big run for seven yards with a gaping hole between Ogunjobi and Heyward, along with Bush unable to get off his block, and finally Norwood and Jack combining for the tackle. On second and goal from the two, it appeared that Fitzpatrick provided on of his stellar splash plays on a forced fumble on Hall as he reached for the goal line on his run, with New York recovering short of the end zone. Unfortunately, the official review overturned the call, ruling that Hall made it across the goal line before the fumble, unbearably resulting in a go-ahead touchdown with 18 seconds left. Can’t believe the 10-point fourth quarter lead was lost, maddening. Steelers down by four now.
Last, let’s look at special teams:
Pittsburgh Kicker Chris Boswell deservingly got the strongest grade of the week, with an 85.7 kicking grade with two makes, answering a question I’ve had for a while, what do kickers have to do to get a high PFF grade? Well, how about nailing a 59 yarder that tied his career long, and an Acrisure/Heinz field record distance! The special teamers with +70 grades were Jamir Jones (75.6) providing a tackle, Miles Killebrew (71.7), and Derek Watt (71). Miles Boykin and James Pierre did a great job getting down the field to force each punt to be fair caught, especially the latter in this game. Pierre also recovered a punt return fumble by Olszewski, a huge play to maintain possession, and thought Olszewski should have had a much lower grade (more on this in a bit). Thought punter Pressley Harvin’s (66.1) grade was a bit strong on an inconsistent day. The below 50 grades for this week were Connor Heyward (49.9), who missed an angle/tackle opportunity and Leal (29.8) with a penalty.
Punter Pressley Harvin got his first opportunity with 10:03 in the first quarter, a 36-yarder that was fair caught at the nine-yard line thanks to good pressure on the catch from Boykin and James Pierre. Olsewzki let his first punt return (7:53 first quarter) go instead of fielding it, allowing it to roll for a total of 59 yards and downed at the 23-yard line. Harvin’s second opportunity with 2:13 in the first quarter was another 36-yarder, only traveling to the 30-yard line where the returner ran forward and Pierre there to force the fair catch.
In the second quarter, Leal was penalized for leveraging, a 15-yard penalty enforced on the kickoff. The Jets elected to kick short, fielded by Benny Snell at the 18 and able to return it for seven yards to the 25. Kicker Chris Boswell got his first field goal opportunity at 8:34 in the second quarter, and is good on a booming kick from 51 yards out to get the Steelers their first points of the game. His following kickoff was less ideal, going out of bounds for the penalty and setting the Jets up with great field position at the 40. Harvin provided a quality 51-yard punt with 5:30 left in the second quarter, with Boykin getting downfield on the fair catch, and along with a Jets penalty pinned them back to the nine-yard line. With 3:52 until halftime, Olszewski fielded a punt return from the 29-yard line for a return of five yards where he took a big hit out of bounds. Harvin punted on fourth and 25, another poor 35 yarder (really struggling thus far) that was fair caught, with Pierre there once again to force it. Boswell made his second field goal, tying his career long of 59 yards and an Acrisure/Heinz field record distance, with plenty of distance just before halftime, capitalizing on a big penalty on the Jets to cut the lead to four.
Olszewski went back for a punt return at 14:07 in the third quarter, fielding it off the bounce at the 25-yard line, but as he fights through the first tackler takes a hit and fumbles, but is thankfully recovered on another great special teams play from Pierre. Whew. With 5:16 in the third quarter Olszewski got another punt return opportunity, thankfully fielding it cleanly at the eight-yard line with a Jets player pressuring the catch, able to return it for ten yards where he ran out of bounds.
Boswell kicked off at 13:36 up by ten, a short attempt bouncing and fielded at the five, with Connor Heyward missing the angle on the return to the 19 where Jamir Jones made the tackle.
STEELERS VS. JETS WEEK 4 SNAPS & REGULAR SEASON TOTAL SNAPS:
Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments!