Zach Wilson is slated to make his sophomore season debut for the Jets (1-2) in week four against the Steelers (1-2). The second-year quarterback will likely start after rehabbing his right knee for a month and a half.
The Jets have a rough history in Pittsburgh, as they are a mere 1-10 since their first meeting in Steel City in 1970. But having Wilson back gives the offense a better chance than trotting out veteran Joe Flacco, who, despite amassing 901 passing yards in three games, is obviously not the answer this team needs.
With Wilson the Jets have a mobile quarterback who can scramble out of the pocket and throw the long ball. The key to his success will be mental fortitude and a high football IQ. Wilson’s injury during the preseason was at his own fault, as he tried to gain an extra few yards and cut back to the inside of the field instead of just running out of bounds. That can’t happen during the regular season. And Wilson and the Jets’ coaching staff know that.
Wilson needs to look to get wide receivers Elijah Moore and Corey Davis more involved, all while continuing to hit rookie Garrett Wilson. Unlike years past, the Jets have a solid receiver core. It is up to Wilson to throw strong and accurate passes and hit them, rather than over- or under-throwing them and giving the Steelers defense a chance to pick him off.
Look for more touches from Breece Hall in this one, too.
Another key for the Jets to walk away from this matchup with a win is protecting Wilson. Flacco was sacked nine times this season. Injuries have plagued the team early, with Quincy Williams and George Fant out this week. This means the Jets will have to turn to a third left tackle. Protecting Wilson, who I’m sure is going to be a bit hesitant from the jump with testing his knee and running, is vital.
The Steelers are without All-Pro pass rusher T.J. Watt, who is on the injured reserved with a pectoral injury. Pittsburgh has yet to win a game without Watt, sitting at 0-6 when the star doesn’t play. The Steelers have a 30.5 QB pressure percentage with Watt compared to 19.0 without him since 2021.
The pressure shifts to defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and Alex Highsmith to lead the defense and get to Wilson. Minkah Fitzpatrick will do Minkah Fitzpatrick things and I would not count out him getting an interception this week.
Defense aside, Mitch Trubisky hasn’t played well since the Steelers’ week one overtime win against the Bengals. And even that win is dicey because it came down to a kicker battle between Chris Boswell and Evan McPherson.
For the Steelers to be successful, Trubisky must seek out second-year wide receiver Chase Claypool. This season, Claypool has only been targeted 18 times for 11 receptions and 79 yards with no touchdowns. Claypool is coming off a rookie season in which he scored 11 touchdowns and accumulating more than 1,800 yards.
Trubisky also has rookie George Pickens, who only has five receptions for 65 yards. Pickens was credited with an acrobatic catch last week after hurling in a one-handed grab on an overthrow from his quarterback.
The running game has been mediocre too, as the primary running back, Najee Harris (40 attempts, 128 yards, one touchdown), is playing through a foot injury.
For the Steelers to be successful in this one, Trubisky needs to be aggressive but not overzealous when it comes to throwing the football.
Betting Odds (Courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook as of 9/30):
Spread: Steelers (-3.5)
Moneyline: Steelers (-190); Jets (+160)
My initial reaction to this is that the over under is really low because Wilson and Trubisky are lower-tier quarterbacks, and we don’t know how aggressive Wilson is going to be on the ground. That being said, I might not be touching the over/under because this could end up being very low scoring, but I like to root for points. If you do want action on this one, I’d take the under. I think we are going to see a lot of field goals in this one. I also like the Jets to cover. I think they win this one outright, so if you want to take the moneyline and live life on the edge, go for it.
My picks: Jets +3.5; Under 41.5; Breece Hall Any Time TD +210
(Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images/Cropped)