Kenny Pickett leaves Steelers’ loss with knee injury
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HOUSTON — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett left Sunday’s 30-6 loss to the Houston Texans with a knee injury.
Coach Mike Tomlin didn’t have any additional updates after the loss, saying only that Pickett was being evaluated.
“It sucks,” running back Jaylen Warren said. “Obviously we have depth at the quarterback position, but to see our starter go down like that, it sucks, but that’s part of our game.”
Pickett was sacked as he spun out of a collapsing pocket on a fourth-and-1 dropback from the Texans’ 33 with 1:16 remaining in the third quarter. Pickett tried to elude the Texans’ pressure, spinning away from it but into defensive end Jonathan Greenard, who came around the outside of rookie left tackle Broderick Jones.
“I really don’t know what happened,” Jones said. “I just remember even seeing him grab his knee, so just praying for him. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious. Hopefully we can get him back as soon as possible.”
Greenard wrapped Pickett up and spun him around. Pickett clutched his left knee after the sack, rocking on the ground until Steelers medical personnel got to him.
Pickett, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 114 yards with one interception, initially needed help leaving the field and put his arms around athletic trainers for about half of the walk back to the bench.
He made it to the blue medical tent under his own power, walking gingerly. After being evaluated in the tent for more than five minutes, Pickett was ruled out with a knee injury and walked with Steelers personnel back to the tunnel.
The injury came as the Steelers appeared to be gaining momentum in the second half. The team was shut out in the first half for the first time since Week 16 of the 2021 season and gained only 53 yards of offense in the first half. At the time, Pickett was 9-of-14 for 35 yards with an interception that came when he attempted a deep ball to Calvin Austin III on the first drive.
The Steelers started to get things turned around after halftime, kicking field goals on their first two drives of the third quarter. Then, on the third drive, the Steelers got the ball into Texans territory courtesy of a 23-yard run by Najee Harris and a 10-yard pass from Pickett to Darnell Washington. A fumble by Jaylen Warren on first down put the Steelers behind the chains, but Pickett used a 17-yard completion to George Pickens to give the Steelers a fourth-and-1 at the Texans’ 33.
Rather than kick another field goal, the Steelers elected to go for it. The team took a timeout before the play when Tomlin realized the ball wasn’t spotted where he thought it would be. Still, it didn’t matter, and the play ended with the worst possible result: a 9-yard loss and the starting quarterback clutching his knee on the ground.
“It kind of kills your morale a little bit when your quarterback goes down, so you never want to see that,” backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “But we got to pick him up and everyone’s got to pull together and we got to find a way to fight this week.”
Trubisky took over for Pickett when the Steelers’ offense retook the field in the fourth quarter. A year ago at halftime of Week 4, Pickett replaced Trubisky as the team’s starting quarterback.
Trubisky, who joined the Steelers in free agency before the 2022 offseason, signed a two-year extension in the offseason. “We spoke briefly,” Trubisky said of a conversation with Pickett after his injury.
“We’re not sure what it is, so just continue to stay in contact and make sure we continue to pick him up because it’s a frustrating situation. It sucks.”
Trubisky completed 3 of 5 attempts for 18 yards in two fourth-quarter drives. In 2022, Trubisky, a former first-round pick by the Chicago Bears, started five games and appeared in seven for the Steelers, completing 117 of 180 attempts for 1,252 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions.
“We know what Mitch can do,” center Mason Cole said. “And we’ve got trust in Mitch whenever he’s got to go in.”
The Steelers also finished the loss without tight end Pat Freiermuth, who sustained a hamstring injury on a 32-yard catch-and-run play by Najee Harris midway through the third quarter, and left tackle Dan Moore Jr., who didn’t return after the club’s first drive with a knee injury.
With Freiermuth sidelined, the Steelers turned to third-round pick Darnell Washington and 2022 draft pick Connor Heyward to handle tight end duties.
Washington made his first NFL catch with three minutes to go in the third quarter for a 10-yard gain and a first down. Freiermuth had a touchdown in the Steelers’ win against Las Vegas a week ago, and against the Texans, Freiermuth had three receptions for 7 yards on four targets.
In Moore’s absence, 2023 first-round pick Jones stepped in and anchored the left tackle spot.
After the loss, Tomlin was asked if changes would be coming to the Steelers, and although he was vague, the head coach was emphatic.
“Hell yeah, we got to make some changes, man,” Tomlin said. “That was an ugly product we put out there today. And so we’re not going to do the same things and hope for a different outcome. What those changes are, we’ll put together a plan in preparation this week.”
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Kenny Pickett leaves Steelers’ loss with knee injury