High profile departures. High expectations. An uneven erratic start. Inopportune injuries. Disappointing and unexpected losses. A trip to Florida to play a winless Jacksonville Jaguars team. The later of which would seem to be just what the Dr. ordered….
It should. This describes the situation the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in now, just as they found themselves in in 1995.
- Of course there are important differences.
The 1994 Steelers finished 3 yards shy of Super Bowl XXIX. The ensuring off season had seen the departures of Barry Foster, Eric Green and the team’s two starting guards. The injuries had been to Hall of Famer Rod Woodson and starting quarterback Neil O’Donnell. And these Steelers were Super Bowl favorites.
The 2013 Steelers finished by eeking out an 8-8 record. Their free agent losses were far more marginal. The injuries to Ryan Shazier, Jarvis Jones, and Ike Taylor are serious. None of them even broaches the loss Pittsburgh suffered when Rod Woodson went down.
- But just as they were 21 years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars were winless.
And that’s the danger. Trap games weren’t a big issue for Bill Cowher’s Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1990’s – his teams were more likely to fall flat on their face against more worthy opponents. But that first meeting against the 1995 expansion Jacksonville Jaguars was very much a trap the Steelers fell into.
To give you an idea of how “off” the Steelers were Steve Avery scored Pittsburgh’s only touchdown of the afternoon, which would become the only touchdown of his career. Beyond that, there’s little in the stat sheet that tells the story of “what went wrong” as Mark Burnell and James Stewart’s stats are all quite pedestrian, whereas in contract Yancey Thigpen had six catches for 160 yards.
But of course stats only capture so much. Specific memories of the game have long since faded, but a few things stick out.
- It was Kordell Stewart’s 1st time lining up at wide receiver, but he wasn’t a factor in the game
- Jacksonville benefitted from a lot of missed tackles, as the Steelers defense focused too much on trying to get turnovers
- Pittsburgh in contrast, fumbled three times, losing only once
Overall, those 1995 Steelers went to Jacksonville and lost because they’d looked past their soon to be new division rival and at a fundamental level, lacked focus. And the Jacksonville loss wasn’t even rock bottom, as on the next Thursday night, Jeff Blake lit the Steelers secondary up like a Christmas tree a move which caused Cowher to move Carnell Lake from safety to corner.
Its 2014 now. While the Jacksonville Jaguars have been in business since 1995, years of constant coaching changes have left the organization resembling something more like an expansion team. However, Blake Bortles is already drawing comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger.
- Based on pure talent, the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers should defeat the Jaguars, handily.
But that as also true in 1995, and it didn’t happen. Those 1995 Steelers of course would bounce back and reach the Super Bowl, making them the only team since the NFL-AFL merger to lose to an expansion team and make the Super Bowl.
Few people are considering the 2014 Steelers as Super Bowl contenders. But one thing is certain. If they drop the game to Jacksonville, they won’t be playing in January, let alone late January.