As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to face the New York Jets in Week 4, they will do so against former second-overall pick quarterback Zach Wilson in his season debut. Having struggled in his rookie year, Wilson is looking for a bounce back second season, and hopes to get off to a strong start in Acrisure Stadium Sunday. When asked about the team’s preparation for the matchup against Wilson, Steelers’ Head Coach Mike Tomlin highlighted a key component of Wilson’s skill set in a Saturday interview on the team’s YouTube channel.
“Getting a feel for his in-stadium mobility,” Tomlin said when asked about the Jets’ quarterback. “It’s always a component of the matchup that’s uneasy when you haven’t been in a stadium with a quarterback. Obviously, he’s coming off a lower body injury, so that could be compromised in some way. His mobility is dramatically different than [Joe] Flacco’s, it could change the climate of the rush, and certain components of the rush.”
The Steelers will face Wilson for the first time in his young career on Sunday, which Tomlin cited as an uneasy component given Wilson’s athleticism. So far in 2022, the only tape on the Jets is with long-time Steelers rival Joe Flacco manning the offense. As such, the team’s preparation will be tricky, as there is not much tape with Wilson and this current Jets offense. As Tomlin mentioned, Wilson’s mobility — which was a big part of his game at BYU — will add a new layer to the Jets’ offense.
While Tomlin pointed out the possibility that Wilson’s knee injury will hinder his mobility, Wilson said that this will not be the case in a Wednesday press conference.
“I’m full go,” Wilson said when asked whether his knee injury will impact his mobility. “I’m going to be playing ball how I can. If somebody comes up, make somebody miss, get out on the edge, extend plays when I need to, hang in the pocket.”
It is difficult to tell whether this injury will indeed impact Wilson’s mobility and its role in his play, and it will remain to be seen until Sunday’s matchup. Wilson is playing with an injured offensive line with tackle George Fant being replaced by the relatively inexperienced Connor McGovern. As such, the Steelers’ pass rush has a good matchup, and Wilson may indeed need to utilize his mobility early and often.
Wilson showed flashes of what his mobility can accomplish in 2021, notably so in one highlight throw on the run against the Tennessee Titans last season. Throwing off-platform is one of the skills that arguably led to Wilson being the second overall pick, and it is one that the Steelers should expect him to utilize on Sunday.
In playing in the AFC North, the Steelers typically face the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson twice every season, and are therefore no strangers to playing against mobile quarterbacks. However, the team continues to have the handicap of playing without reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, who anchors the team’s front seven. Pittsburgh must prepare for the worst with Wilson’s mobility, and Tomlin appears to be doing so.