While the Steelers are not the Steelers of old, the game started with an old feeling of a rivalry renewed. Pittsburgh was the model Tom Coughlin used when the Jaguars first came into the league and while the Steelers are still built around the same concepts, they don’t have the same personnel who used to drive the Jaguars crazy. Particularly on defense. You wouldn’t recognize virtually any names on the Pittsburgh D outside of Polamalu and Taylor. They’ve brought back Brett Keisel and James Harrison as stopgap measures in their front seven. But Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau is 17-2 against rookie quarterbacks in his career and did his best to confuse Black Bortles.
Early on, Bortles used a combination of his athletic ability and the Jaguars scheme to move the ball downfield. The naked bootleg with a pass to a crossing receiver is a bread and butter play for Offensive Coordinator Jedd Fisch. It always seems to be there, but Alan Hurns is suffering from a case of the drops and consequently the Jaguars can’t always convert. Some of those are tough catches but those are the catches you have to make to be successful in the NFL. The two teams exchanged field goals through the first 17 minutes with the Jaguars leading after the first quarter for the second time this season.
In a weird sequence, the Steelers had to kick off three times because of penalties and the Jaguars had back to back holding calls on Luke Bowanko to move the ball back to the nine. Hurns was also called for holding in that sequence as well. Bortles threw it up on a one on one situation for Allen Robinson but the ball was intercepted. Sort of like a punt from your own end zone but I’m not sure Robinson has the kind of speed necessary to get behind cornerbacks in the league.
In the middle of the field, the Jaguars defense couldn’t stop the run, giving up big chunks of yardage. That’s somewhat mystifying because with the players on the defensive line, stopping the run should be their calling card. Still, the Steelers went to the pass inside the ten, and finally converting on a TD pass from the 1-inch line, 10-3 Steelers.
A nice execution of the 2-minute drill by Bortles ended with a delay of game penalty and a Scobee 35-yard field goal, 10-6 Pittsburgh at halftime. Respectable.
The second half was a battle of field position with Ben Roethlisberger picking apart the Jaguars defense from the pocket. With the pressure from the first quarter gone, the Steelers moved the ball up and down the field but couldn’t convert. The Jaguars forced their first turnover since the Philadelphia game to stop a drive and things were looking up.
But as we’ve come to expect, there are some growing pains with young players, especially quarterbacks. Bortles threw to the wrong spot in the wrong situation and the Steelers took advantage, grabbing the interception and running it back for a TD. 17-9, Pittsburgh.
Although the Jaguars got the ball back they couldn’t do much with it and the Steelers just ground the clock out to end the game with a win.
It’s a more respectable outcome for the Jaguars but still a loss, leaving them at 0-5 for the second straight year. They’ll travel to Nashville to face the Titans next week before back to back home games at the stadium to finish out October.