The Pittsburgh Steelers are finally back on the field after a long 10-day wait, and boy has it felt every bit of 10 days and then some. The last-place AFC North team is also back for another game at Acrisure Stadium, hosting the New York Jets and second-year quarterback Zach Wilson making his 2022 debut.
And we’ll start with Wilson, or perhaps most specifically, getting after him. The Jets are down their top three tackles, and will be playing backups. Even without T.J. Watt on the field, the Steelers must take advantage of this matchup, with Alex Highsmith the leading candidate to do it.
Highsmith comes into this game leading the NFL in sacks with 4.5, but the Jets will be scheming to get the ball out of Wilson’s hands quickly, and they will be providing plenty of chips and showing max protection. Finding ways around that will be key.
Next, we have to talk about the run defense. The Jets might not be the most formidable rushing opponent in the league, certainly paling in comparison to the Cleveland Browns, but the Steelers have to show against whomever they’re playing that they have a solid run defense.
Pittsburgh made a lineup change in this regard since the last game, promoting Montravius Adams to starting nose tackle over Tyson Alualu. With second-year Isaiahh Loudermilk now healthy, according to reports, following a rib injury, perhaps we also see him dressing over one of the other six linemen.
The other side of the ball has to get the running game going, as well. For as much as the offensive line has improved over the first three weeks of the season, most of that improvement has been in pass protection rather than in the run game, where there is still certainly work to be done.
But it’s also on running back Najee Harris, who hasn’t shied away from owning up to his role in the run game not being where it should be. He needs to be more decisive hitting holes, and simply better at actually surveying the field and seeing where he needs to go.
You know who we’re not going to see today, barring some extreme circumstance? Kenny Pickett, of course. So what about Mitch Trubisky? What are we looking for out of him? From the offense generally? After a week of talking about it, can they come up with something to incorporate the intermediate and deep portions of the middle of the field?
Matt Canada, let’s make with the RPOs and run them more effectively when we do. If you’re not going to give Trubisky the authority to audible freely, then give him plays with options. If he starts making bad decisions when given options, then adjust. And then convince Tomlin to bench him.
We don’t go without noting that punter Pressley Harvin III came into this week dealing with a hip injury, one that was apparently significant enough that they signed Jordan Berry to the practice squad. While they didn’t elevate Berry, meaning that they fully expect Harvin to be fine for the game, it’s still worth monitoring.