The Jacksonville Jaguars return to EverBank Field on Sunday, except this time the team comes home led by rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.
If this game was played 10 times on a neutral field, the Steelers would probably win seven of them. Probably eight. Vegas has the Jaguars as just 7-point underdogs, but with the way the second half played out last week against the San Diego Chargers, I'm reticent to impart confidence in the defense's ability to stop the pass and prevent scores.
So what's the best chance the Jaguars have on Sunday?
Win a shootout.
Attack the corners
If Ike Taylor is again out this week, the Jaguars need to attack Cortez Allen and nickel cornerback William Gay who will be filling in, who have been in a serious slump the last few weeks. The long passes and touchdowns have come too easy, and what's shocking is it's not just a certain route or situation that has Allen and Gay stumped. They're getting picked on regularly.
Look at this opening drive touchdown by the Tampa Buccaneers last week. Mike Glennon throws an easy back shoulder fade to rookie Mike Evans with Allen completely unaware of where the ball is.
And yet another pass to Evans, this time on the left side of the field where Gay is.
Oh, and here's Gay trailing Louis Murphy. Who just signed last week. I guess he thought he had safety help over the middle?
And one last pass, again to Evans, which reserve cornerback Brice McCain can't keep up with near the sideline. Instead of turning his head or making a play on the ball, Gay is too busy looking at Evans' feet and waving him out of bounds.
Attack the linebackers
The Buccaneers didn't have a strong day on the ground last week. Doug Martin rushed for just 40 yards and 19 of their total 63 yards came on one end-around by wide receiver Solomon Patton.
But because Glennon was able to consistently challenge the Steelers defense with intermediate passes and the occasional deep route, they gave the Buccaneers way too much space in the middle of the field on some plays.
Take tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins running a simple route between the linebacker and safety that Clay Harbor has done many times before.
Attack the safeties
I honestly don't know who's to blame, but the Buccaneers overload the right side and confuse the entire Steelers secondary. There's no safety net when things go wrong, Glennon throws a beautiful pass, and Murphy catches on a slant that looks similar to deep routes that Allen Robinson has run over the first four weeks.
And while Clay Harbor doesn't have the height advantage that Austin Seferian-Jenkins might, and Nic Jacobs isn't quick enough to be much of a threat in the open field, free safety Michael Mitchell's lack of awareness can be exploited by any receiver or tight end who can run a route well enough and play the ball physically.
I wrote two weeks ago that the Jaguars only hope in beating the Colts was through the air. With Chad Henne under center, it was hard to have the faith that the team could actually put together a legitimate passing threat.
But Bortles is here. The New Era has begun. And as hard as I try not to sound like a fanboy, it's difficult. Bortles literally makes everything about the offense better. Some, like third-down conversions and offensive line play, have come along quicker than others, like the running game. But there is improvement in nearly every facet of the way the Jaguars play when they have the ball.
Can the Jaguars offense exploit the Steelers secondary? Absolutely. Will they? We'll see.