New York Jets coach Robert Saleh expecting QB Zach Wilson back in Week 4, but doctors have final say

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After sitting out three games with a knee injury, New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is poised to return next Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I'm expecting [him back], but until the doctors say so, I'm just going to say he's being evaluated," coach Robert Saleh said Sunday after a 27-12 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at MetLife Stadium.

Once Wilson is cleared -- that could be determined as early as Monday -- he will go back to his role as the starter. Saleh has said repeatedly that Wilson, drafted second overall in 2021, will play as soon as he's healthy. The coach's position hasn't changed, a source said.

There might have been a mini-controversy if backup Joe Flacco had remained hot, but that certainly wasn't the case Sunday. He threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and took four sacks in a lackluster performance by the entire offense, which failed to score a touchdown against the Bengals.

A week earlier, Flacco, 37, delivered one of the best games of his career, throwing four touchdowns to lead the Jets to a miracle comeback win against the Cleveland Browns. Now he's heading back to the bench.

"We'll see. You guys know more than I do," Flacco said. "I'm going to keep my head down and keep working, doing all I can for this team in whatever role that may be."

Wilson, who suffered a meniscus tear and bone bruise in his right knee in the preseason opener, underwent arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 16. The Jets said he'd be back for Week 4 at the earliest. Adhering to that timetable, Wilson returned to limited practice two weeks ago, beginning a gradual ramp-up that should culminate with him practicing fully on Wednesday. Before Sunday's game, Wilson was seen in the pregame warm-ups, throwing and moving well with no sleeve on his surgically repaired knee.

The Jets could use a spark. After scoring two touchdowns in the final two minutes of their Cleveland comeback, they mostly sputtered against the Bengals. The home crowd booed in the second half and chanted for Mike White, the Jets' third-stringer who was active.

Asked whether he considered an in-game change, Saleh said simply, "No."

Flacco completed 28 of 52 passes for 285 yards, giving him 155 pass attempts in three games. He has five touchdown passes, three interceptions, 901 passing yards and a meager 39.6 QBR. The Jets (1-2) played from behind in each of the first three games and failed to establish a consistent ground game, putting pressure on Flacco.

The pass protection also broke down against the Bengals. Left tackle George Fant allowed two sacks and left an aggravation to his surgically repaired knee. He was replaced by Conor McDermott, who made his 2022 debut and allowed a sack.

"Fans want to see you win football games," said Flacco, addressing the boos. "You get the frustration, but it was a two-score game. If we put one in the end zone there ... we have more important things to worry about than listening to that stuff."