PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett plans to play against Tennessee on Thursday night despite a rib injury that forced him to sit out the second half of a loss to Jacksonville on Sunday.
Pickett said he “for sure” will be on the field when Pittsburgh (4-3) hosts the Titans (3-4). The second-year starter watched the final two quarters against the Jaguars from afar after getting drilled by Jacksonville defensive end Adam Gotsis.
Gotsis hit Pickett in the left side of the chest and then drove him into the ground in the waning moments of the first half. Pickett sat on the soggy Acrisure Stadium turf for several minutes before slowly walking off. He came out to warm up for the second half, but then went back to the training room while backup Mitch Trubisky took over.
“(I was) doing what I could to try and go back out there,” Pickett said. "I felt like I couldn’t throw it the way I needed to throw it to win so just listened to what the doctors said.”
Asked if the play deserved a flag for unnecessary roughness, Pickett shrugged.
“You know, I’ve had a couple where I feel like I was going to get some (calls) but I haven’t gotten them yet,” he said. "It is what it is, I’ve just got to keep playing.”
The biggest issue for Pickett will be pain management, particularly on a short week. He did some “light” throwing on Tuesday and could be more involved in Wednesday's walkthrough. The only sure way for the ribs to heal is to rest, not an option with Pittsburgh playing twice in five days.
“We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to play,” Pickett said.
Pittsburgh's offense has spent most of the first two months of the season essentially running in place. The Steelers are near the bottom of the league in every major statistical category, including points (29th) and yards (30th).
While offensive coordinator Matt Canada has come under heavy criticism, Pickett believes the issue isn't the game plan, but the inability to execute with any sort of consistency.
Wide receiver Diontae Johnson dropped a pass down the middle of the field on the first play against Jacksonville and later saw a potential touchdown slip away when Pickett's pass to the end zone went behind him because of what Pickett described as a “miscommunication.”
“It’s not about scripting, it’s not about anything,” Pickett said. "It’s about us playing and being better than what we’re doing right now. It’s not where it needs to be and it has to get better.”
The Steelers used a run-heavy approach over the second half of last season to take some of the pressure off Pickett during his rookie season. Asked if his injury makes it even more important for Pittsburgh to be able to run the ball effectively, Pickett shook his head.
“I’m not going to use (the ribs) as a crutch,” he said. “We’ve got to play well.”
Pickett does plan to use a flak jacket, something he's used regularly throughout his career. He called the timing of the injury — which came with Pittsburgh finally starting to gain some momentum — “frustrating” but part of the game.
“I’ve been doing it for a little bit, it is what it is,” he said. "You’ve just got to be available and get ready to go on Thursday night.”
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