Steelers players felt ‘spark’ when Pickett entered game

Rookie QB impresses teammates with 'calm' demeanor, energy

The crowd at Acrisure Stadium felt it, and so did the players on the field and sideline.

When Kenny Pickett entered Sunday’s game against the Jets, there was a palpable shift in momentum and confidence for the Steelers.

“I feel like the whole crowd was cheering him on,” said receiver George Pickens, a fellow rookie. “We were already ready to go. It’s just next man up. We were already ready, though.

Pickett threw three interceptions during the second half. Two of them bounced off the hands of intended receivers. Another came on a Hail Mary pass to the end zone on the game’s final play. And the Steelers lost the game, 24-20.

But Pickett moved the ball, completed every pass he threw around the interceptions, and most importantly, he led the Steelers’ offense on two touchdown drives.

“He brought us a spark,” tight end Pat Freiermuth said. “The stadium, the fans, us. He did a great job.”

Pickett passed for 120 yards and ran for his first career touchdown. Then he ran for another. It ignited the stadium, and players on both sides of the ball appeared energized by the rookie’s play.

“Obviously, it’s amazing,” cornerback Cam Sutton said. “An opportunity for him. He’s a guy who has been getting better each and every day, controlling that room, controlling that offense. Obviously he’s been waiting on this opportunity, just coming in and playing his style of ball, playing winning football.”

Perhaps the former Pitt star’s most impressive play came on a 3rd and 8 from New York’s 20, when he took a massive hit from Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.

Pickett completed the ball over the middle to Freiermuth, then got up and smiled at Williams. He then ran in his second touchdown of the day, set up by the gutsy conversion.

"He's a gamer,” Freiermuth said. “That's why they drafted him in the first round, to make those plays.

“(He was) calm. Like he’s been in that situation before.”

The question now becomes if the Steelers will roll with Pickett Sunday, when they travel to Buffalo. Or will Steelers coach Mike Tomlin elect to give Trubisky one more shot?

From the sounds of it, Johnson — the team’s top pass catcher — is ready to keep working with the rookie.

"When he came in we were just more efficient,” Johnson said. “You could see the energy. He played with swag. That makes us want to play for him. We have to get him better, and prepare for next week."

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