Ben Roethlisberger surprised by halftime switch to Kenny Pickett: 'The whole offense was stagnant'

Color Ben Roethlisberger surprised that head coach Mike Tomlin made a quarterback change from Mitchell Trubisky to Kenny Pickett at halftime of the Pittsburgh Steelers' loss Sunday to the New York Jets.

"To me, the whole offense was stagnant," Roethlisberger said earlier this week on his podcast, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It wasn't like it was Mitch's thing. ... They're not running the ball real well. Nothing really going on.

"But to me, when you pull [Trubisky], I get what you're trying to do. You're trying to create a spark. Which, I think it happened. ... When you put someone new in there at a position like that, it's going to create some sort of a spark. It's going to create energy. It's going to do that. So you're going to naturally, a lot of times, get that 'let's go!' And you got that.

"But in my opinion, I didn't know that it needed to happen. But Mike's the coach. He did it. It seemed like ... I heard that the stadium was crazy loud. It obviously energized the defense, the fans, the offense. Minkah [Fitzpatrick] gets that pick-six. Everything's kind of falling into place."

It fell into place until it didn't for Pittsburgh, who couldn't sustain the 10-point fourth-quarter lead, falling to the Jets, 24-20.

Tomlin announced Tuesday that Pickett would start Week 5 against the Bills, noting that spark the rookie brought.

Big Ben likewise started his rookie season as the backup before an injury to Tommy Maddox thrust him into action in a Week 2 loss to Baltimore in 2004. The Steelers went on to win 13 straight regular season games with Roethlisberger as the starter that year.

Roethlisberger believes the QB change needs to be permanent to build confidence in the rookie.

"I always felt, too, that if you made the switch, you almost have to stay with it," Roethlisberger said. "You can't go back and forth because you'll crush confidence. I don't think you can. I mean, you could. I don't know if it's the smart move. So it's almost like, now, you've got to stick with it."

Big Ben noted he texted with Pickett after the game in which the rookie had three INTs, including one on his first NFL pass.

"I did tell Kenny I did it, too," Roethlisberger said, referring to an interception on his second NFL pass. "You'll be just fine. Whatever. That happened. But they still have life, they're still going. He rushed for two touchdowns.

"I think he's beating himself up a little bit on the last interception. Kenny texted me like, 'I've gotta throw that one away.' And I'm like, listen. You're talking to the guy that rarely ever threw a ball away. So just go play with confidence."

The Steelers need Pickett to play with confidence with a gauntlet ahead. Following Sunday's game in Buffalo, Pittsburgh faces Tampa Bay, Miami and Philadelphia.

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