Steelers' Kenny Pickett put in concussion protocol in loss

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett's first taste of the Baltimore Ravens rivalry ended abruptly when he entered the concussion protocol in the first quarter and never returned in Sunday's 16-14 loss.

Pickett took a hard sack at the end of the Steelers' first drive, slipping out of the Ravens' first sack attempt, spinning around and being slammed into the ground by Roquan Smith. After coming to the sideline, Pickett was evaluated for a concussion in the injury tent.

He was initially cleared and reentered the game for a second drive -- a quick three-and-out. But after entering the protocol following that series, he didn't come back out for the Steelers' third drive, and backup Mitch Trubisky checked in.

"When he became symptomatic, he was pulled from the game and evaluated for concussion," coach Mike Tomlin said afterward. "I don't know about the sequence or the details regarding the sequence."

Trubisky also finished the Steelers' Week 6 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after Pickett entered the concussion protocol in the first half. In that game, Trubisky completed 9 of 12 attempts for 144 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers' 20-18 win.

On Sunday, Trubisky completed 22 of 30 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown but threw three interceptions in the loss. Pickett finished his brief outing Sunday without a pass completion, though he did rush twice for 16 total yards.

Similar to his performance against the Bucs, Trubisky was aggressive coming off the bench Sunday. And while the aggression helped the team to two quick scoring drives, one in the second quarter and one in the fourth, it also hurt the Steelers with three interceptions on passes either attempted from the red zone or thrown into the red zone.

"I just wanted to go out there, run the offense," Trubisky said. "Obviously was over-aggressive at times, which showed up in the turnovers. ... I appreciate everyone battling all four quarters. A lot of stuff I can do better, but coming off the bench, just wanted to go in there and try to provide a spark. I thought we did a good job of moving the ball, but I've got to protect the football, and that's obvious."

With the loss, the Steelers are 0-7 when the offense commits a turnover and 5-1 when it doesn't.

Trubisky orchestrated a second-quarter scoring drive with a 14-yard third-down pass to Pat Freiermuth and a 42-yard bomb to rookie wide receiver George Pickens. Running back Najee Harris capped off the drive with a 1-yard score to pull the Steelers within three in the first quarter after the Ravens had jumped out to a 10-0 lead.

But three of the Steelers' next four drives ended in an interception. Trubisky threw the first from Baltimore's 17-yard line, which was picked off by Smith. He was also picked off by linebacker Patrick Queen with the Steelers on the Ravens' 23 with 21 seconds left in the half, again targeting Freiermuth. And on his final interception, Trubisky targeted Diontae Johnson deep downfield, but Baltimore had safety help from Marcus Williams, who easily snagged the high pass on the 1-yard line.

"There's give and take," Trubisky said of being overly aggressive vs. conservative. "There's definitely a happy medium I need to find. I think when you have a great kicker like [Chris Boswell], and it's a low-scoring game, you've just got to be smarter with the football, and then a field goal keeps us in the game or helps us win it. You've just got to feel that, and obviously I want those throws back, but you want to stay aggressive at the same time. We were moving the ball. Part of that was helping with that aggressive mindset. But I've got to take care of the football, bottom line."

Boswell's lone field goal attempt was blocked in the fourth quarter, though Trubisky did lead a 49-second scoring drive later in the quarter, advancing the ball with chunk plays like a 38-yard completion to Johnson and a 13-yard dart to Connor Heyward. He hit Freiermuth for a touchdown with 2:34 remaining to bring the Steelers within two, but the Ravens salted away the win by running the ball, as they had all second half, to snap a four-game losing streak vs. the Steelers.

With four regular-season games left, the Steelers (5-8) need to win out -- or go 3-0-1 -- to avoid the first losing season in Tomlin's career as a head coach and make an outside push for a playoff spot.

"We probably left nine points out there today, and it's the difference in the game, if we get any of those points," center Mason Cole said. "It stinks, man. This one hurts."