The Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the New York Jets in Week 4 marked a turning point in the 2022 season. The losses are mounting, and so are the injuries in the Steel City. Despite those facts, there is an optimism in Pittsburgh that the city hasn’t felt since 2004. The short-lived Mitchell Trubisky Era is likely over and, for better or worse, the 2022 Week 4 Jets game will go down in history as the first game of the Kenny Pickett Era. So, while there were at least two other takeaways from this game, the Steelers first-round rookie getting his first taste of regular-season NFL action is what anyone will ultimately remember about the Steelers’ Week 4 loss to the Jets.

3. Mike Tomlin and the Steelers are heading toward a historically bad season

In 15 seasons as the Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin has miraculously never had a losing season. His teams have finished 8-8 on three occasions (2012, 2013, 2019), but he’s never had a squad go 7-9 or worse in his tenure as Pittsburgh’s head man.

That’s about to change in 2022.

The Steelers are already 1-3, and tough games against the Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, and Las Vegas Raiders loom. The team also has two Baltimore Ravens games, a Cincinnati Bengals matchup, and a Week 18 date with Deshaun Watson presumably back for the Cleveland Browns.

Unless Kenny Pickett comes in and becomes a star QB overnight, Tomlin will have the first losing season of his career. And even if Pickett does impress right away, with the injuries mounting on the defense, even that might not be enough to save the season after the Steelers loss to the Jets.

2. Injuries are mounting on the Steelers defense

One of the biggest reasons Mike Tomlin has never gone less than .500 for a season is that, no matter what was happening with the offense, the vaunted Steelers D was always enough to win the team a few games.

In 2022, with the Steelers O virtually non-existent to this point, the defense is sustaining too many losses to keep picking up the slack.

Last year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt, is out for the foreseeable future with a pectoral injury, and things on that side of the ball got worse on Sunday vs. the Jets. Safety Terrell Edmunds suffered a concussion in the first half, and Cam Heyward left the game with an apparent leg injury on the last drive.

Add to that cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who was absent from the Steelers loss in Week 4 with a hamstring injury, cornerback Cameron Sutton, who played but was on the injury report with a groin injury, and star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who has already been in concussion protocol this year, and the defense is on the verge of a crisis.

The big takeaway here is If the defense can’t carry this team, it’s in big trouble. You need to look no further than Zach Wilson’s 10-play, 65-yard, game-winning drive in Week 4 to see that.

1. The Kenny Pickett Era is here

OK, now that we got through all that, it’s time to talk about the takeaway that everyone in Pittsburgh is talking about.

The Steelers were down 10-6 at halftime and produced just 121 net yards in the first half. Mitchell Trubisky was an ineffective 7-of-13 for 84 yards with an interception and three sacks at that point.

That’s when Tomlin did what Steelers fans have called on him to do for several weeks now and put in the No. 20 overall pick from the 2022 NFL Draft, Kenny Pickett.

Pittsburgh natives are intimately familiar with the QB tearing it up on the Acrisure Stadium turf, as they saw it for four years with the Pittsburgh Panthers. These same fans had also seen enough of Mitchell Trubisky and his feeble production this season.

The last time Steelers fans saw a first-round rookie debut was on TV in Week 2 of the 2004 season. That’s when Ben Roethlisberger replaced an ineffective Tommy Maddox in the third quarter of a 30-13 Baltimore Ravens blowout and became the franchise’s QB1 for the next 18 years.

It’s way too early to tell if Pickett will be under center for the Steelers for the better part of the next two decades. He did throw three picks in his debut, but Pickett also became the first QB in NFL history to rush for two TDs in his first game.

Now, Mike Tomlin’s big dilemma is this: The Steelers face the Buffalo Bills and the No.1-ranked scoring defense in the NFL in Western New York for Week 5. Does the Steelers coach throw Pickett to the wolves to see if he sinks or swims? Or does he wait for the team to come back to Pittsburgh in Week 6 vs. the (only slightly easier) Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense?

Chances are we’ll see Pickett in Week 5, and then fans will get at least a little glimpse of what the future of the Steelers looks like.