Kenny Pickett leads Steelers comeback to keep playoff in sight

BALTIMORE — Kenny Pickett clutched a football as he trudged through the tunnels under M&T Bank Stadium Sunday night after orchestrating his second straight game, this one beating the Baltimore Ravens 16-13 and keeping the Pittsburgh Steelers’ slim playoff hopes alive. animal

Not only did he stave off postseason elimination and Mike Tomlin’s first losing season as head coach, Pickett also received a game ball, his first, presented to him by the Sunday Night Football staff.

“I’ll probably send it home to my parents and they can put it up at our house,” he said, adding that running back Najee Harris also got one after his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.

For the second straight week, Pickett’s calm demeanor and accurate passing helped the Steelers (8-8) drive down the field and score with less than a minute left to complete the comeback. Pickett completed 5 of 6 attempts for 64 yards and converted two short third-down touchdowns on sneaks to lead the Steelers to an 80-yard drive in 3 minutes, 20 seconds, and a 10-yard TD capped off Harris.

Pickett was 3 of 4, including a touchdown, on throws that went at least 10 yards downfield on that final drive. He was 3 of 7 before such throws, according to ESPN Stats and Information Research.

“I can’t say enough about our young quarterback,” Tomlin said Sunday night. “He had a smile on his face. He’s always ready to be that guy when we need him. And it’s just good to see the young guy. We walked forward.”

Heading into Sunday, the Steelers were 0-7 when trailing by double digits; was one of only seven teams without double-digit rebounds this season.

With the extra running game racking up 198 rushing yards, Pickett finished the night completing 15 of 27 attempts for 168 yards with one touchdown. He is just the third starting quarterback to win in Baltimore, joining Mitch Trubisky (2017) and Jake Plummer (1997).

A week after finding George Pickens with 46 seconds left in a game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Pickett connected with Harris on third down with 56 seconds left, keeping his eyes down as he flew out of the pocket and eluded Baltimore’s pressure. Pickett made a pass to the errant Harris.

“He did a great job extending and slipping past the fullback,” Pickett said. “I just wanted to extend it to where those guys could let loose a little bit.”

Pickett became the first rookie since at least the 1970 merger to allow a TD in back-to-back games in the final minute of regulation, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.

“We see the moxie in our quarterback,” outside linebacker TJ Watt said. “We’ve seen our guys come out, hit the ball and practice all season long. So we were not surprised.”

After scoring a late game-winner a week ago, the Steelers were confident in their young quarterback when they went down the field by four with 4:16 remaining despite not scoring all night. . Running back Chris Boswell made three early field goal attempts to keep the Steelers within striking distance, but he missed a 48-yard field goal in the second quarter that would have put them up 6-3 early.

Still, the Steelers had no doubt they were going to score when they took the field for their final drive.

“There was energy, like we had confidence, like we knew we were going to go down there and score,” left tackle Dan Moore Jr. said of the huddle on the final drive.

The Steelers offense believed in Pickett from the minute he took over at defensive end, even when the team was 2-6. Another fourth quarter victory only reinforced that belief.

“We can win with him and he’s going to come up in big moments,” Pat Freiermuth said. “We never questioned it, but seeing him deliver those big moments and guys step up and especially the line … and receivers making plays and stuff. You have all the confidence in the world.”

The confidence the offense has in its quarterback is mutual, and one that will be important as the Steelers enter Week 18 with a win against the Cleveland Browns combined with losses to the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. with, will represent them. playoffs.

“The confidence I had in myself is showing on the field and I think the guys are starting to feel it, which is always good,” Pickett said. “Coming into the pack and seeing how confident everyone is, you know they have a lot of faith in you, and I have a lot of faith in those guys. So it’s a step in the right direction, there’s still a lot of work to do.”

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