Searching for somewhere to throw the ball late in the fourth quarter during Sunday’s 38-3 loss, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett scrambled toward the sideline at Highmark Stadium with Buffalo Bills defender Shaq Lawson hot in pursuit.
As the rookie quarterback got rid of the ball, Lawson dove low, tackling Pickett below his waist to bring him to the ground. Pickett took exception to the hit and shoved the defensive end as he picked himself up off the turf.
Pickett didn’t stop there, and he briefly continued to go after Lawson until left tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and the rest of the Steelers’ offensive linemen stepped in to break up the scuffle.
“From my opinion, I felt like he went after my knee after I threw it,” Pickett said. “That’s it. You know, tempers flare. I don’t care, I’m gonna keep playing to the last play of the game. That was it. All good with me.”
Pickett was assessed a penalty for unnecessary roughness, while Bills defensive end AJ Epenesa, who jumped into the scrum after it started, was also flagged for unnecessary roughness and was ejected. Lawson left the game soon after and shouted back toward the field as he walked to the locker room. He declined to talk about the hit after the game.
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Steelers coach Mike Tomlin supported his quarterback’s response, calling it “appropriate.”
It wasn’t the first time Pickett took extra contact in the Steelers’ blowout loss. Pickett, who completed 34 of 52 attempts for 327 yards with one interception in his first career start, was also hit by Buffalo defensive back Damar Hamlin as he went into a slide in the third quarter. Hamlin came in as Pickett was already going down into his slide, and Steelers offensive lineman James Daniels jumped to Pickett’s defense and shoved Hamlin after the play, initiating a minor melee between the two teams near the Bills’ sideline.
The officials said the hit was “legal action,” and Daniels was whistled for unnecessary roughness. Afterward, neither Pickett nor Tomlin had a problem with Hamlin, a Pitt product and college teammate of Pickett’s, but they believed Hamlin should have been called for roughing the passer.
“I had a problem that the officials didn’t have a problem, not necessarily Hamlin,” said Tomlin, later referring to his Pittsburgh ties by using the local area code. “I love Ham. He a 412er. He plays hard. He’s a good kid. I had a problem with the fact that it wasn’t officiated in a way that I anticipated it being officiated.”
While Pickett threw for over 300 yards and had several completions of more than 20 yards in his debut, the Steelers’ offense managed just three points after going 0-for-4 in the red zone. Kicker Chris Boswell missed two field goal attempts, and the Steelers recorded their worst loss since dropping the 1989 season opener to the Cleveland Browns 51-0.
“Point blank, we didn’t put points up,” Pickett said. “That’s the No. 1 thing. We gotta be a lot better in the red zone. Felt like we moved the ball, but we just couldn’t finish. It’s something that we have to get fixed quickly and get back to the drawing board here on Monday.”
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