Question 1: The Steelers are tied for first in the AFC North at 4-2, albeit underlying stats (e.g., point differential) suggest that record could be... dare I say... fraudulent. What has been Pittsburgh’s key to success so far, and do you think it’ll hold up for the rest of the season?
T.J. Watt and George Pickens being awesome. Without both of them, the Steelers are a one-win team at best. Now, they did just get Diontae Johnson back, and he had a big game against the Rams, but few other players have been difference makers. The run game had a nice day against Los Angeles, but that was very much the exception. The secondary hasn’t been good, save for Joey Porter and Minkah Fitzpatrick, and the run defense is still an issue. Without Watt and Pickens, and a sprinkle of Alex Highsmith, this is a team that would be in the running for the No. 1 overall pick.
Q2: This is a safe space- how do yinz feel about Kenny Pickett? (Last year’s 20th overall pick currently ranks 28th in passer rating and PFF grade among 36 quarterbacks.)
I’m very vocal about my thoughts on Pickett- he’s not very good. The entirety of the 2022 quarterback class was bad, and it was a big reach taking him in the first round. Fans will be quick to point out how his production jumps in the fourth quarter, which is great. But guess what else would be great? If he played a complete game and didn’t have to come back in the fourth quarter. And yes, the whole Matt Canada situation probably keeps us from seeing what his true ceiling is, but it’s not a high one. I think the absolute best he’ll be is a fourth-tier quarterback- just middle of the pack. I understand fans love him because of where he went to school, but he’s 26th in EPA/play, 31st in success rate, and 30th in completion percentage over expected (CPOE). The numbers don’t lie. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
Q3: Minkah Fitzpatrick is perhaps the best safety in the league, but the secondary around him looks iffy on paper. What have you seen so far from the new faces in that area, and is it a concern for the Steelers with Trevor Lawrence on deck?
It’s a big concern because the Steelers don’t have a go-to nickel cornerback. This has caused Fitzpatrick to be basically a box safety and has taken away his ability to play centerfield, which is what he’s best at. Plus, Levi Wallace and Patrick Peterson have both been bad this season. Joey Porter is the only cornerback the Steelers have that’s worth holding onto after this season, and it’s hurt Fitzpatrick’s ability to do what he does best.
Q4: Can you give us two Monday morning headline predictions (one for a Steelers win, one for a Steelers loss)? In other words, what do you see as Pittsburgh’s path to either scenario on Sunday?
If the Steelers win, it’ll be because of the defense giving Trevor Lawrence hell for 60 minutes in a low-scoring game, which has been the recipe for them all season. In both of the Steelers losses, though, they have been held to single-digit points and have lost by three or more scores. So if they lose, the pattern seems to be that they don’t just lose, they get beaten up. And the last time the Jaguars were in Pittsburgh for a regular season game, they beat them up.
Q5: The Jaguars are 2-point favorites according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Which side of the spread are you taking, and are there any player/game props that fancies your interest?
I’m taking the Jaguars to cover. I think it’ll be a respectable showing from Pittsburgh, though. They’re at home, their defense will make a splash play or two to keep them in it, but the Jaguars defense has also been very good and I don’t see the Steelers keeping up with Lawrence and Jacksonville’s offense. I’ll take the Jaguars 23-16.
Thanks to Jarrett for taking the time to answer our questions!
What are your thoughts on this week’s matchup, Jaguars fans? Let us know in the comments!