Steelers winners and losers after losing to Jets

Steelers winners and losers after losing to Jets

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday as they played the New York Jets in Week 4 of the regular season. The Steelers were losers in the competition, but that doesn’t mean every player performed well or badly.

Players who play well can be referred to as “winners” while those who left a lot to be desired can be referred to as “losers”. It may sound harsh, but it’s the essence of this exercise.

Let’s check who fell on which page of the ledger after the last game…


George Pickens
Stat line: 6 rec., 102 yards, 17.0 average, 0 TD, 27 long, 8 goals

We knew the Pickens breakout game was coming, but nobody knew when. As it turns out, Kenny Pickett was called into action at this point. The two rookies hadn’t played much time together this season, but their bond was real. The back shoulder throws to Pickens were beautifully timed and beautifully executed. If this is just the beginning for the rookie receiver, I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Pat Freiermuth
Stat line: 7 rec., 85 yards, 12.1 average, 0 TD, 24 long, 9 goals

Freiermuth has been the only consistent playmaker on the Steelers offense so far this season. Every other weapon was neutralized or sometimes just not shown. When the Steelers decide to take advantage of the tight end of the sophomore year, and that’s a big problem at times, he’s done nothing but make games. It will be exciting to see how his role could expand with Pickett at the helm.

Kenny Pickett
Stat line: 10/13, 120 yards, 9.2 average, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, 0 sacks, 65.1 rating/6 rush, 15 yards, 2.5 average, 2 TDs, 7 long

Some might suggest that if a player has 3 INTs on their tally then it is not justified to put them in the winners column. I get it. But do you know how difficult it must be to get off the bench and ready to play in the middle of a game? Orchestrating point-producing rides with no real repeats throughout the week? Pickett gave the Steelers the “spark” Mike Tomlin wanted, unfortunately a 10-point lead in the 4th quarter wasn’t enough.

Minka Fitzpatrick
Stat Line: 8 tackles, 5 solo, 2 pass defended, 1 INT

Without TJ Watt, the Steelers’ defense looks average, with the exception of Fitzpatrick. Minkah recorded his third interception of the season in just four games. When teams don’t avoid him like the plague like the Cleveland Browns did in Week 3, he makes passers-by pay. For those who were wondering, “Where’s Minkah?” last season…well, here he is. Unfortunately, he’s just one man in an 11-man squad that’s both bruised with injuries and currently struggling.


Diontae Johnson
Stat line: 2 rec., 11 yards, 5.5 average, 0 TD, 6 yards long, 4 targets

Diontae Johnson wanted a big payday, and he was getting what many felt was fair compensation for the work he’s done throughout his career to this point. However, the drops continue to plague Johnson in 2022. No, he hasn’t had a ridiculous number of drops, but when and how he dropped the ball certainly matters. The first down pass that went off his hands resulted in an interception from Mitch Trubisky. Some say the pass was thrown too hard or not perfectly. I call BS it should have been a catch. Johnson wanted to get paid like a top wide receiver, he now needs to add production to support that and sometimes the routine games are important.

Chase Claypool
Stat line: 0 rec., 0 yards, 2 goals

I can’t recall any player of Claypool’s stature or status, and I use those terms loosely to be kept uncaught. The zero catches are troubling on all fronts, but Claypool’s inability to truly use his size to his advantage still baffles me. Check out some of the best pass catchers in the game, both past and present, and you’ll see how they climax with fluency and regularity. Claypool does neither well. The team must use Claypool in a way that maximizes their abilities, but at the same time, they must increase Claypool’s game.

Gunner Olszewski
Stat Line: Another fiddly, questionable decision-making

Gunner O could reach breaking point by being the Steelers’ returnee if he continues to put football on the turf. Another fumble in Week 4, his second in the last three games, and Steven Sims, who has been inactive for a game day this season, could be called up. Throw in Olszewski’s questionable decision-making when it comes to catching punts fairly, and the Steelers may be looking at other options. If Sims isn’t the type, this is the first week Calvin Austin III can return to the Injured Reserve (IR) team, so the team may have options for that spot.

passing offense
Stat line: 178 total yards, 4 INTs

It’s hard for me to think back to a time in Steelers football when the team was struggling so hard to pass just 200 yards on the stat. We, the fans, watched Ben Roethlisberger throw 400-yard plays like they were nothing. Now? 200 seems like a pipe dream. That may change now with Pickett at quarterback, but one has to hope the passing attack matures.

Pass Defense
Stats line: Zach Wilson – 18/36, 252 yards, 7.0 average, 1 TD, 2 INT, 1 sack for 4 yards, 59.0 rating

You look at the Wilson stat and you think, “Meh, that’s not so bad.” But it’s both the “when” and the overall stat line. The Steelers couldn’t reach Wilson in the second half, and he was able to play when it mattered most. Throw in the Steelers’ injuries in secondary and pass defense struggled. And they fought at the worst of times on Sunday.

Defense of the Red Zone
Stat line: NYJ – 3-for-3

I’ve said it over and over, but the Steelers can benefit from a “bend don’t break” defense. Hold attacks on field goals, and the attack should be able to make enough plays to at least keep the team in games. When the Jets hit the red zone in Week 4, they scored touchdowns. This is not a bend-don’t-break defense. If the Steelers win a game before bye week, their defense has to bend more than it breaks.

Statistics line: 4 INTs

A team that flips the ball four times isn’t going to win often, and the Steelers fall into that category. You have to play clean football to win in the NFL.

Stat line: 8-for-55

Speaking of clean football goes beyond turnover. It’s also about penalties. The Steelers can’t shoot themselves in the foot with pre-snap penalties and illegal downfield calls. They did both on Sunday and it needs to be cleaned up as well as the sales.

3. Down Defense
Stat line: 6-for-15

Just like defending a pass, “when” matters. Statistically, the Steelers’ defense did a great job on the 3rd downs. But when they gave up on those all-important third-down conversions matters. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this stat line is the number of third and long games they have given up. Doesn’t offer much confidence going into the killer line they have.

Stat Line: Lots of key injuries

Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring)
Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee)
Cam Heyward (Elbows & Ankles)
Terrell Edmunds (concussion)
Cam Sutton (groin & hamstring)

All defense, and most in secondary school. Talk about adding insults to injuries. salt in the wound. Whatever you want to call it, TJ Watt is still on IR, and it’s only getting worse.

If you want a closer look at the list above, check out my Let’s Ride podcast where I outline each winner and loser and MORE!