More Shuffling Up Front
The Jets' offensive line continues to be in flux after LT George Fant was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. The Green & White signed a pair of tackles – Cedric Ogbuehi to the active roster and Mike Remmers to the practice squad.
Conor McDermott, who played 35 snaps in Fant's place last Sunday, is in the mix and rookie Max Mitchell will continue to start. The Jets could also call up T Grant Hermanns from the practice squad. Head coach Robert Saleh has been impressed with Mitchell, who leads all rookie tackles with 232 snaps this season.
"You saw a lot of athleticism," Saleh said of the fourth-round pick. "You just weren't sure from a technical standpoint how he'd respond because of where he came from. To our surprise, he's taken it on, from a technique standpoint, he's a lot stronger than where we thought he'd be and he's only going to get a lot stronger. … It's hard to evaluate O-linemen nowadays with the ways college offenses are constructed. Luckily for us, he's going to be a good one."
The Steelers have led or tied for the lead in sacks each season from 2017-22. But Pittsburgh will be without starting OLB T.J. Watt, who tied the NFL single-season sack record with 22.5 sacks in 2021 and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The Steelers are 0-6 in games he hasn't played in. LB Alex Highsmith, however, leads the NFL with 4.5 sacks.
"They still have a lot of good ones," Saleh said. "They do a really good job with their coverage system to give their D-line a chance to go get the quarterback. Very experienced team, they've played together for a long time and they're very efficient in what they do from a down-in-and-down-out basis."
See the top photos from Wednesday's practice leading up to the Steelers game.
Zach Wilson's Potential Return
Sunday's game will be Zach Wilson's Year 2 debut if all goes well this week, according to Saleh.
Wilson, who injured his right knee in the preseason opener at Philadelphia, has been medically cleared. He was a limited participant in practice the last two weeks and could line up against a Steelers defense that ranks in the bottom-third of the league in yards per game (No. 24), rush yards (No. 28), pass yards (No. 22) and third down (No. 25). Wilson was having an impressive camp until the injury, and finished his last seven games last season throwing for 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He also had 4 rushing scores.
"From a Zach Wilson perspective, we haven't been in the stadium with him and so there are some unknowns," Steelers HC Mike Tomlin said. "His mobility is dramatically different than Joe's [Flacco's] and presents some different challenges from that perspective. There will be a get-to-know if you will, but obviously, mobility and some other things as it pertains to him is a mystery for them as well because he hasn't played. So, we're getting ready with all of those things being understood."
The Story on Defense
The Jets' defense needs to be better on third down. It ranks 31st in the league, allowing opponents to convert on 51.3% of their attempts. The Steelers, led by QB Mitch Trubisky, have converted 33.3% on third down, which is tied for 24th in the league.
"The story with our defense right now is third down," Saleh said on Monday. "Our first- and second-down defense is pretty good. We gave up all three of our touchdowns on third down. Just critical mistakes at the most inopportune time. … But right now, third down is an issue that we've got to get fixed. Otherwise, the structure, the defense, everything that's happening, the run game, stopping the run has been better than it was a year ago. Our first and second down defense has been better, but we've got to get third down fixed."