By Julie Dixon // @ABroncoNole
The Jacksonville Jaguars, a hard-luck team for a decade, are readying for round two in Pittsburgh. On their last outing, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger turned the ball over five times. The final score was 30-9. Can they do it, again? Be the upset winner in these playoffs?
Steelers fans will be quick to point out that the interceptions were flukes, and despite the Jags getting the ball back so many times, they didn’t put up many points. They’ll say the game was close until the second half. Finally, they’ll say that minus an 80 yard bust out touchdown, running back Leonard Fournette was kept under 100 yards.
All true. However, Jacksonville is entering Heinz Field with confidence and that is a weapon in itself. They kicked butt here before, and they won last week. That means, at least in this season, this team now has more experience than the Steelers. Plus, they’re used to being the underdog, something the Steelers know little about.
Pittsburgh has Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown, and RB Le’Veon Bell, “The Killer B’s.” The Jags have, throw a dart at the defense and pick a name. Plus they have Fournette, and while he’s not flashy, tight end Marcedes Lewis is smart and finds ways to make that one clutch catch you have to have. I also like Jacksonville’s coaching better. Not to mention, if Roethlisberger went down, Pittsburgh is hosed, if QB Blake Bortles goes down, it would make little difference.
The keys to this game are simple for Jacksonville if they can execute on them. Pittsburgh’s secondary isn’t great, and they play zone. When they suck up to stop the run, to force Bortles to throw, he will have holes behind the linebackers. Will he see them? Do that a few times and they’ll have to drop back which will help Leonard Fournette.
Dink and dunk keep the defense rested. We saw a fellow young QB miss the easy passes versus New England. The Patriots’ defensive talent isn’t as good as Jacksonville, a team he beat twice, so what happened? I’d say nerves, reffing and coaching. Bortles will need to stay calm, be prepared for iffy calls and listen to his coach who has done a terrific job.
In the red zone, have 19-0 TD-INT Bortles, throw. I don’t know why he’s good down there, but he is. Will his streak continue? Who knows, but it’s good odds to try. Be conservative on offense, take shots when given and let the defense do their thing.
On defense, Doug Marrone said it best. They’re going to play man, and blitz every play. Roethlisberger may be tough to take down, but he’s easy to hit and he scrambles like retired QB Peyton Manning. Putting free safety Jalen Ramsey on Brown and cornerback AJ Bouye on WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, allows the rest of the defense to focus on stopping Bell and keeping passes short. Do that and they will sack and intercept Roethlisberger.
For the Steelers, they need to stay on the field and tire the Jags’ defense out because that squad plays fast and they play intense. They’re going to need Roethlisberger to target the linebackers and the safeties. Avoid the CBs. Run Bell. On the last outing, they barely used him. Relying on the QB to beat Jacksonville is a recipe for disaster.
On defense, shut down the run, which includes Bortles running because he showed last week he can beat you with his legs.
This game comes down to which defense you think can get it done. My brother and his family flew up for the game. I hope they leave singing, Duuuuuuvaaaaal!
Chat about the NFL with Julie on Twitter // @ABroncoNole