Zach Wilson
Syndication: The Record

Zach Wilson is back.

The second-year Jets quarterback suffered a bone bruise and meniscus tear in the preseason and missed the first three games of the regular season. But he returns Sunday for a road matchup against the Steelers.

This game should answer plenty of questions about the Jets moving forward. Although they’re only 1-2 with a pair of tough losses to the Ravens and Bengals sandwiched around a miraculous comeback win over the Browns, it’s difficult to get a read on any team missing its primary starting quarterback.

If Wilson turns heads and the Jets defeat Pittsburgh, fans will rejoice. If the opposite occurs, Florham Park may go up in flames. A poor performance from Wilson and a second straight loss would spark the Monday morning “Fire Everyone” mantra Jets fans know all too well.

Jets at Steelers

When: Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022
Where: Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA
Time: 1 p.m. ET
Radio: ESPN Radio New York 98.7 FM

Keys to victory

Ground game resurgence. The Jets field a pair of promising young running backs in Michael Carter and rookie Breece Hall. But the team ran for only 76 yards against Cincinnati last week. With Wilson returning from injury, the offense must find a spark on the ground to take pressure off the young quarterback who hasn’t played a game since Aug. 12.

Stop Najee. Najee Harris is the star of the Steelers offense, not Mitch Trubisky. If the Jets can limit the second-year running back’s impact, the pass rush and secondary should have their way with Pittsburgh’s below-average quarterback. C.J. Mosley and the rest of the inside linebackers, therefore, must impress Sunday afternoon.

Safety blankets. Wilson didn’t have much assistance in the tight-end department last year. Now he does, as general manager Joe Douglas signed C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin in the offseason before drafting Jeremy Ruckert in the third round. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur must greatly utilize the tight end position to help provide his mistake-prone quarterback with a safety blanket option on intermediate passing downs.


This week’s X-factor has to be Wilson. All eyes will be on him to see if he can elevate this offense to heights the Jets couldn’t reach with Joe Flacco under center. As was previously mentioned, the aftermath of the game will be incredibly different if Wilson impresses and the Jets win vs. if he struggles and they lose.

Much of the pressure is on the young kid — is he up for the task?

Did you know?

The last time the Jets won a game in Pittsburgh was back in December 2010. Led by quarterback Mark Sanchez, Gang Green defeated Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers 22-17 en route to a second straight postseason appearance (which is still the team’s most recent playoff berth).

Since that matchup, these two AFC squads have faced one another six times overall, with three of them coming in Pittsburgh. Those three road losses for the Jets came in January 2011 (in the AFC Championship), September 2012, and October 2016.

The pick

This is the game where everything comes crashing down for the Jets. We’ve seen the defense take steps backward ever since its promising first half against the Ravens in Week 1. We’ve seen the injuries at offensive tackle, the offensive inconsistency, and the incredibly poor coaching. And now, Wilson has to trot out there for his first game back after suffering a meniscus tear and bone bruise in the preseason.

Taking all the aforementioned issues into consideration, and the fact an unproven Wilson is returning from injury, this could be a total let-down game against Trubisky and Pittsburgh. Steelers 24, Jets 13.

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.