Kenny Pickett’s Comeback Magic Lifts Steelers Over Titans

Kenny Pickett’s Remarkable Comeback Leads Steelers to Thrilling Victory

In a Thursday night spectacle that set Week 9 ablaze, the Tennessee Titans squared off against the Pittsburgh Steelers, creating a buzz of anticipation among football enthusiasts. This high-octane matchup followed Tennessee Titans rookie Will Levis’ explosive four-touchdown debut the previous week. The Titans and the Steelers engaged in a heated exchange of field goals throughout the night until Pittsburgh managed a late-game surge, securing a hard-fought 20-16 victory.

With just 4:02 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Steelers‘ quarterback Kenny Pickett connected with wide receiver Diontae Johnson for a game-changing 3-yard touchdown. This clutch performance propelled the Steelers forward, keeping them neck-and-neck with the AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens (6-2). Meanwhile, Levis, standing in for the injured Ryan Tannehill, saw his record fall to 1-1 as a starter when linebacker Kwon Alexander sealed the win with a game-ending interception, marking a significant moment in the young NFL career of Levis.

Kenny Pickett

Dazzlingly dubbed “Kenny Comeback,” the Steelers’ second-year quarterback orchestrated the game-winning touchdown for Johnson, ending a 22-game touchdown drought for the wide receiver. The Steelers faced formidable challenges throughout the game, including holding Derrick Henry to less than 100 rushing yards, and staging a remarkable comeback when trailing after three quarters, securing their fourth win in such a scenario this season.

A closer look at the quarterback duel reveals that Pickett, playing with a rib injury sustained just four days earlier, faced a rocky start in the first half. Despite a completion rate of only 53%, Pickett’s determination shone through as he led the offense to score a first-drive touchdown. This marked just the seventh opening-drive touchdown for the Steelers in the last three seasons, and only the second with Pickett as the starter. Pickett’s second-half performance improved significantly, largely attributed to the resurgence of the run game.

He completed 19 of 30 passes for 160 yards, including a critical 32-yard pass to Johnson during the game-winning drive, all without any turnovers. Notably, the third-down pass, which covered a game-high 23 air yards, had an expected completion percentage of just 35.9%, according to Next Gen Stats. Pickett averaged 4.5 air yards per attempt, the second-lowest of his career, and faced pressure at the second-lowest rate of his career (20%).

Kenny Pickett

Surprisingly, Broderick Jones, the Steelers’ starting right tackle, played a pivotal role in the game’s success. Jones, who replaced Chukwuma Okorafor, offered strong support to the run game despite the unconventional position change. He contributed significantly to Najee Harris’s touchdown and helped Harris achieve his longest run of the season, a 25-yard dash. The run game also thrived, averaging a season-best 5.5 yards per carry, well beyond its usual 3.6-yard average.

However, a recurring issue haunted the Steelers. Wide receiver George Pickens, in the last three games, made spectacular catches that were ultimately ruled incomplete due to his inability to land a second foot in bounds. This trend proved costly as the Steelers missed an opportunity to take the lead in a crucial moment. Despite this setback, Pickens’ talent remains evident, as he led the league in receptions within two yards of a boundary over the past two seasons, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

The Titans, despite suffering their eighth consecutive road loss and fourth road loss of the season, put up a commendable fight against the Steelers’ formidable run game, led by Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. Levis, although facing relentless pass-rushing pressure, displayed remarkable poise and skill, leaving a strong impression as a potential starter for the rest of the season.

Kenny Pickett

Levis’s performance was particularly impressive, as he consistently delivered precise passes despite facing a relentless pass rush. His exceptional arm strength was evident, and he executed offensive coordinator Tim Kelly’s game plan with confidence and ease, even in a noisy stadium like Acrisure Stadium.

One notable weakness in the game plan was evident when the Titans, down by four points, reached the fourth quarter. Questionable play-calling decisions contributed to their struggles, including an ill-fated inside run to Tyjae Spears. This move resulted in no gain and set up a pivotal fourth down, which ultimately went in favor of the Steelers. Despite Pittsburgh’s imposing pass rush, the Titans opted for long-developing routes and a deep incompletion to Burks, a decision that did not pay off.

On a more positive note, the Levis to DeAndre Hopkins connection proved to be a game-changer for the Titans. Hopkins, who had a solid performance with 60 receiving yards on four receptions, thrived with Levis at the helm. With Levis, Hopkins recorded at least 50 receiving yards in three out of four halves played, a stark improvement from his earlier performances.

Looking ahead, a bold prediction arises: Levis is poised to achieve his first 300-yard passing performance in the upcoming game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With Tampa’s defense ranking 28th in the league and allowing an average of 256 passing yards per game, Levis is expected to capitalize on this opportunity. The absence of Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, known for their immediate pressure, will allow Kelly to unleash deep passing plays. Given Levis’s proficiency in throwing deep passes, fans can anticipate an exhilarating aerial display against the Buccaneers.


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