The Jets will take flight in Pittsburgh this Sunday against the Steelers at 1:00 p.m. at Acrisure Stadium with their prized possession. Robert Saleh announced on Wednesday that Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is back under center for Gang Green. The second year QB missed the first three weeks of the regular season after suffering a knee injury back on August 12th in a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Zach Wilson has a stronger arsenal of weapons to work with than he had last season, including rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson and tight ends Tyler Conklin and CJ Uzomah. Throw in Corey Davis, second year WR Elijah Moore, and Braxton Berrios and it rounds out a talented group. Given the rank of the Steelers pass defense and the fact that cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon did not practice again Thursday with a hamstring injury, Wilson and the Jets should look to capitalize against an underwhelming Steelers secondary.
“He’s in a good mental state. Like we all saw he had a really nice training camp, he was getting better everyday. So now it’s just a matter of him getting out there and getting some game time experience and finding ways to get better every single day. He’s excited and we’re all excited for him,” head coach Robert Saleh told the media about Wilson.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle that the Jets have to overcome in this game is the Steelers pass rush. Even without 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, TJ Watt, on their defensive front, the Steelers line is still no joke. Defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Larry Ogunjobi will both present a big challenge for Jets offensive tackles. The Jets are now on their fourth left tackle after losing George Fant to the injured list. Rookie right tackle Max Mitchell and left tackle Conor McDermott now hold down the fort for Zach Wilson.
The Steelers defense led the league in total sacks in each of the past five seasons. Linebacker Alex Highsmith currently leads the NFL with 4.5 sacks. The Jets offensive line is tied for 9th in the league for most sacks allowed. The moral of the story? Protecting quarterback Zach Wilson.
The media asked head coach Robert Saleh if he had any concerns with Wilson’s knee and the offensive tackle protecting him. Saleh said: “His knee is 100% and as far as the tackles are going we have all the faith in the world in the guys we do have. Max is playing really well, McDermott’s playing a lot of great football. It’s the next man up.”
Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur should certainly continue to increase the work-load of running back Breece Hall. Hall has started to show signs of life, as the rookie looks to build off his coming best performance of the season last week against the Bengals. Hall was quarterback Joe Flacco’s safety valve and that trend should continue Sunday with Wilson.
Zach Wilson is in his first return back to action since his knee injury and it will take time to shake the rust off. Now add in the Jets offensive line struggles. On the flip side, the Steelers offense has certainly had its struggles as well (went one for nine on 3rd down last Sunday). If the Jets can incorporate their backfield into the game plan and expose the Steelers secondary, they can pull off the win. Look for this game to go down to the wire. Jets 24. Steelers 17.