The Jacksonville Jaguars will be visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday and THREE AND TWO is on the line. To get us ready for the game we sat down with Jeff Hartman over at Behind The Steel Curtain.
1. I think the biggest matchup on Sunday will be our secondary against your receivers. How deep is your receiving corps? Is it the Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant show or are there other guys we need to watch out for?
The Steelers depth chart at wide receiver is probably their deepest position. After Brown and Bryant you have rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is becoming a reliable target for Roethlisberger in the slot, Eli Rogers who also mans the slot, and you can't forget Le'Veon Bell out of the backfield.
The team also has Darrius Heyward-Bey and Justin Hunter who are very capable, but don't play much due to how deep the receiving corps is for the Steelers. As for who to keep an eye on, I would strongly suggest to watch out for No. 19, Smith-Schuster. The team loves his selfishness in blocking, and he showed a knack to get open in big moments the past two weeks.
2. How's the Steelers offensive line? We're leading the league in sacks currently — do you think that success continues into Sunday?
The Steelers are giving up an average of 1.8 sacks per game, and that is about par for the course for this offensive line. They are an extremely solid group, and you won't find too many weaknesses if Marcus Gilbert returns at right tackle after missing the past two weeks with a hamstring injury.
The teams who have had success rushing the passer against Pittsburgh were creative on how they brought pressure. Overloading a side and bringing pressure off the edge has been the recipe for success, but Roethlisberger is getting rid of the ball much faster now than he has in the past. He will still hold onto the football, which results in some sacks, but his pre-snap reads and ability to find the open receiver quick is improving. I expect the Jaguars to pressure the quarterback and force some early or errant throws, but getting home might be tough.
I'll predict two sacks for the Jaguars on Sunday.
3. If you were an opposing offensive and defensive coordinator, how would you attack the Steelers?
Defensively you have to try and take Le'Veon Bell out of the equation. Roethlisberger is still a very good quarterback, despite being in the league for 14 years, but stopping the ground game is where you stop the Steelers offense. But that is just one part, the other is to bracket Antonio Brown so Roethlisberger doesn't have his safety valve on key plays. If you can do those two things, which is easier said than done, you have a legitimate shot at stopping the Steelers very talented offense.
The Steelers defense is a unit which is young, fast and physical. They are second in the league in sacks, but the difference between this year and last year is just how they aren't have to blitz as much to get pressure. Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are the two best 3-4 DEs, in my opinion, and they can cause havoc for the opposition. Their secondary has been tested much because of this, and they have shown to allow a big run or two a game. If the Jaguars defense can keep the game close, they could have success on the ground against Pittsburgh.
4. Is there a Jaguars player on the offensive side of the ball that you'd say, "If the Steelers don't stop him, we're in trouble"?
Chicago gave the recipe for success against the Steelers defense. Run the ball until they stop it. In Week 4 the Steelers stopped the run against the Ravens, combine that with the offense putting up 26 points, and the team had to abandon the run to get back into the game. The Steelers always want to stop the run first, and force the quarterback to beat them, and if the Jaguars want to win this game on the road it will come down to your tandem running backs to get going early and often.
5. What's gonna happen on Sunday? Will the Jaguars be able to get a surprise win on the road?
Nothing surprises me anymore with the Steelers, or the NFL for that matter, and a Jaguars win on Sunday wouldn't stun me, but I don't see it happening. The Steelers have only played one game at home, and they are a much better home team compared to on the road, especially Ben Roethlisberger. I think this is a game the Steelers want to utilize Le'Veon Bell and dictate the flow of the game from the opening whistle.
If the Steelers stop the run, and run it successfully, then it is game over for the Jaguars. I'll predict the final score: Steelers 30 / Jaguars 17