The Jacksonville Jaguars will be visiting the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday and a trip to the AFC Championship game is on the line! To get us ready for the game we sat down with Jeff Hartman over at Behind The Steel Curtain.
1. The Pittsburgh Steelers finished the season narrowly beating teams in three of their last four wins. Although one was with your second string against the Cleveland Browns, is there any worry among fans that Ben Roethlisberger & Co. could be headed for a one-and-done?
There is always doubt in the minds of Steelers fans. The fan base always wants to trust the team to come out and dominate, but it rarely ever happens. The last time the starters were on the field together they dominated the Houston Texans, not an amazing feat, but the Steelers are a team who typically plays well in big games. This game at Heinz Field on Sunday is certainly big, and most fans expect the offense to carry this team down the stretch.
2. Why in the world would the Steelers have a gameplan that involves anything other than running Le’Veon Bell 100 times on Sunday?
Great question, but ultimately because they thrive on balance. Le’Veon Bell is the dynamic playmaker, but the Steelers are at their best offensively when the team is able to pick and choose between the pass and the run. I fully expect this to be a Le’Veon Bell game on Sunday, especially after the result in Week 5 when Bell only had 15 carries. Ben Roethlisberger has something to prove against this secondary, and he will be throwing the rock on Sunday, but expect a heavy dose of Bell.
3. The red zone could be a very important aspect of Sunday’s game. Jon Ledyard points out the disparity in how good the Jaguars are and the Steelers aren’t. Are you as worried or do you think this will be a comfortable enough game for the Steelers that it won’t matter as much?
I am honestly not that worried about it. A lot of these season-long statistics paint the Steelers offense in a negative light based on their early season struggles. In the second half of the season the offense has been one of the best in the NFL, and if they have Antonio Brown back on the field it will only improve those numbers. With that said, the Steelers defense has struggled in the red-zone this season, and the offense has had issues regardless of their improved play of late. The red-zone will be huge, but I’m not all that concerned about those specific numbers heading into this divisional matchup.
4. If you’re the Jaguars offensive and defensive coordinators, how are you attacking the Steelers?
Offensively, you want to keep Pittsburgh honest. As much as you hate to think it, Blake Bortles is going to have to make some throws to loosen up the Pittsburgh defense. They will sell out to stop the run, and if Bortles can’t make the plays necessary to keep the safeties deep, it could be a long day for the Jacksonville offense.
As for the defense, you need to stop Le’Veon Bell. If Pittsburgh can run the football, it will spell trouble for the Jaguars defense. When Bell is running the ball, the Steelers can pick and choose how they attack their opponent, and that includes throwing the ball against the vaunted Jaguars’ defensive secondary. Stop Bell, and force the Steelers into obvious passing situations — the recipe for success.
5. What’s your prediction for Sunday? Do you think the Jaguars stand a chance or will the Steelers get some revenge for the matchup earlier in the season?
The Steelers want to prove themselves on Sunday, and they want revenge. There is a reason members of the Steelers openly said they wanted Jacksonville to win. This game reminds me of the matchup with the Miami Dolphins in the 2016 Wild Card round. The Dolphins ran all over the Steelers in the regular season, and Pittsburgh ended their season in the playoffs. I think this game will be a lot closer than some may believe, but I think the Steelers are just the better overall team, and they prove it on Sunday.
I think Steelers beat Jaguars by a score of 24-16.