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Saunders: Credit Kenny Pickett for Not Making the Big Mistake



Steelers Kenny Pickett

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett did not necessarily out-play Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson for most of the Steelers’ surprising 17-10 win on Sunday.

Pickett dropped back and threw 32 times, completing 18 of them for 224 yards. Jackson threw 38 times, completing 22 for 236 yards. Jackson also ran for 45 yards on six carries.

Pickett had a 41-yard touchdown pass to George Pickens that ended up winning the game for the Steelers. Jackson had about three would-be touchdowns dropped by Baltimore receivers.

On the whole, the performance of the quarterbacks was about equal, except for two extremely significant plays. Jackson turned the ball over twice. Pickett did not.

Both of Jackson’s came in the fourth quarter, after what had been a long and frustrating afternoon for both offenses. The Steelers haven’t been able to get out of their own way all season. The Ravens joined them by dropping about every other pass Jackson threw — and offensive coordinator Todd Monken continued to call passes despite a leaky Steelers run defense.

But Pickett took his lumps. Even in the third quarter, with his team desperately needing to score, when Pickett stood in the pocket and didn’t see a good throw, he didn’t panic. He tried to get out of the pocket and couldn’t. But he tucked the ball. He took the sack. The Steelers punted and lived to fight another day.

It was frustrating. It was disappointing. The boos rained down from the Steelers faithful and the chants to fire offensive coordinator Matt Canada got louder. 

But Pickett never got outside of himself. Jackson made the big mistake.

The Ravens got a gift when Gunner Olszewski fumbled on a punt return, setting Baltimore up on the 7-yard line. A touchdown could put the game away. The Ravens needed it. Jackson wanted it. 

Apparently, he wanted it a little bit too much. Joey Porter Jr. drew Odell Beckham Jr. in press man coverage. He disrupted the route and threw the timing off. Beckham was not any kind of open. Jackson threw the ball anyway. He made the big mistake.

Porter’s interception gave the Steelers offense the chance to win the game with one big play, and they did that.

“I really think that that’s kind of been the difference in these games of late,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’ve done a good job of taking care of the ball, and we’ve done a good job of getting the ball. All the games have been difficult. The defenses again have controlled them in the recent history of the series, but within those games, we’ve taken care of it and they haven’t, and that’s probably why we’re having success.”

The offensive performance in totality was dreadful. They gained just 289 yards of total offense. And yet, they won the game. 

Going forward, it’s hard to see that kind of performance being good enough to win many. It took a great second half from the Steelers defense, two points on special teams, and a lot of luck in some Ravens drops to get there.

But for at least one week, it was exactly what they needed.