In week five of the regular season, the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-9 at Heinz Field. The Steelers offense sputtered all afternoon, never gaining any traction. The Jaguars were horrible in run defense and figured they’d be seeing a whole lot of Le’Veon Bell. Inexplicably, Bell carried the ball just 15 times, while Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 55 times against their staunch secondary. The offense managed just three field goals on the day despite possessing the ball for 31:08. Five possessions ended with Roethlisberger interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns. Roethlisberger and the Steelers are ready to avenge that loss with an explosive and balanced attack.
A Floridian Precedent
Last season the Steelers suffered a humiliating loss to the Miami Dolphins in week six. The defense gave up over 200 yards on the ground, while the offense looked completely uninspired. The Dolphins made their way to Pittsburgh for the wildcard game a few months later. The Steelers unloaded on them for a dominating 30-12 win, avenging the early regular season loss. That scenario looks to be playing itself out again this season, only this time the Florida football team comes from Jacksonville.
The Steelers are a much better team than they were in week five. They’re as healthy as they’ve been all season (minus Ryan Shazier), and have developed a few more weapons. The Jaguars on the other hand should feel lucky to be playing this week. Had they faced a team with a decent offense, their only plans this week would have for different vacation destinations. Instead, they will travel to the Steel City to face the focused and revenge-minded Steelers.
Establishing the run game early
The Steelers biggest mistake against the Jaguars in week five was not running the ball enough. Bell clearly should have had more than 15 carries against the league’s worst run defense. Todd Haley, for whatever reason, didn’t feel that was the way to attack them. Why attack the league’s worst run defense with the league’s best running back? Instead, we’ll attack one of the best secondaries in the game by throwing 55 passes. When the Steelers have the ball this time around, expect a much different and more aggressive approach.
Ideally, Haley should give Roethlisberger the keys to the offense and let him call the plays. Unfortunately he’s too stubborn to do that. Either way, the Steelers will likely give the Jaguars a full dose of Bell to set up the aerial assault. When Roethlisberger goes to the air this time, the Jaguars will have more than just Antonio Brown to worry about. JuJu Smith-schuster, Vance McDonald, along with Martavis Bryant should keep their secondary honest and in single coverage.
One play can make all the difference and skew a stat line. Leonard Fournett rushed for 181 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per carry back in October. Take away his 90 yard touchdown and his stats were a rather pedestrian 91 yards on 27 carries. That’s around 3.2 yards per carry. When the Jaguars have the ball, the Steelers goal is to shut down the run. Their plan is to force Blake Bortles to beat them through the air. Bortles is facing a pretty good secondary himself.
Improvements in the secondary
Joe Haden and Artie Burns have turned into a pretty good duo, limiting opposing quarterbacks to just under 200 yards a game. That average climbed significantly though when Haden was out with a broken leg. Now that they are back together, the secondary has stabilized once again. Bortles struggled last week and shouldn’t have too many windows open for him this Sunday either.
The Steelers got a scare in practice on Wednesday when Burns went down with a non-contact knee injury. It appears as though he’ll be able to play as it was a minor hyper-extension. The bottom line with the secondary is that Burns, Haden, and Cameron Sutton will keep things rather quiet in the secondary. Meanwhile, Vince Williams and the defensive line will contain Fournett for the most part. They will not allow him to run amok like he did previously in the fourth quarter back in October.
Righting the wrongs of week five
Roethlisberger wants another ring, but first he’ll get his revenge on the Jags secondary. With a full complement of weapons this time, Roethlisberger will convert those five interception into four touchdown passes. Finally, Bell will get the workload he should have received in week five. The league’s best back will be the catalyst to putting the Jaguars to rest, in much the same way as he did to the Dolphins a year ago.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Jaguars win this game — unless the Steelers get sloppy. The Steelers are focused and ready for a Super Bowl run after overcoming a season full of adversity. The Steelers will take care of business and put this one away early. They won’t let the Jags hang around. Pittsburgh 34 – Jacksonville 14.