The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of history in Jacksonville, dating from the Jaguar’s time in the old AFC Central. Yet for all that history, the Steelers went down to Florida with a far more mundane goal at hand: Don’t mess up.
Seriously. A week ago the Steelers hosted the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Heinz Field, and embarrassed themselves as they systematically self-destructed.
Vs. Jacksonville the Steelers avoided a similar fate and they did so in a way that was notable for both what they did and didn’t do.
SteelersWeek 5 Assignment Sheet
The Pittsburgh Steelers needed to win this one. The math behind falling to 3-2 would have been rendered meaningless by consecutive losses to winless teams. No, this was one the Steelers had to have, and to do that it needed to start doing certain things and stop doing others.
- the defense had to end its second half collapses
- as a whole, the team needed stop the inane penalties
- the offensive line needed to being playing complete game
- above all, the team must begin finding a way to close
Any rational analysis of the Steelers performance vs. Jacksonville reveals that Pittsburgh delivered a Mixed bag vs. the Jaguars.
On the plus side, the Steelers defense did not allow a touchdown all day, and in it fact shutdown Jacksonville twice in the Red Zone, forcing field goals instead of touchdowns. The defense eliminated Jacksonville’s run threat, managed to get reasonable pressure on Blake Borteles and held the Jaguars were only 3-12 on third downs.
- Perhaps most importantly, the defense showed an ability to get a turnover when it was necessary, which has not frequently happened of late.
While those positives remain real, the Pittsburgh Steelers in no sense controlled the tempo of the game. The Steelers started from behind and never put significant space between them and the Jaguars, in spite of Jacksonville’s wrenched defensive performance to date.
Much was made of Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to hit 11 different receivers, which is fine, but it was necessary because the Jaguars took away the long ball. The Steelers improved on the penalty front, yet saw at least one scoring opportunity whipped away by a penalty on Kelvin Beachum. Cortez Allen came up with an interception which the Steelers offense failed to convert.
Putting Win in Context
The Steelers have played a lot of games in Jacksonville whose significance has extended beyond the space they occupy in the “W” or “L” column.
- In 1995 they gave the expansion Jaguars their first victory, serving as a wake up call to a team which was expected (and did) reach the Super Bowl
- In 1996 they lost Greg Lloyd (and about 5 more of their 10 linebackers), signaling the beginning of the end for Bill Cowher’s first stud defense
- In 1997 the came back from a blowout at half time to losing the game on a blocked field goal, serving as inspiration for a team supposedly doomed by free agent defections
- In 2000, an 0-3 Cowher team scored a major upset, in a game that marked the arrival of Joey Porter, Aaron Smith, and others and set the tone for a decade
- In 2006, an 9-0 loss signaled just how difficult the Super Bowl XL Champion’s title defense would be
- In 2008, a banged up Steelers team lost even more starters, but came back and showed the resiliency which would result in Super Bowl XLIII
When all is said and done, what will the Steelers 17-9 victory mean? What can Steelers Nation learn from it?
At the end of the day, an 8 point victory over a team which has been giving up approximately 38 points per game really doesn’t seem like much to be impressed by. And it isn’t, in any way, shape or form. Yes, the Steelers saw strong performances from Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, Markus Wheaton, and Heath Miller.
- Yet, for all of those strong individual performances, the offense only managed 10 points.
That’s certainly a sobering statistic. For all of its fire power, the Steelers offense cannot seem to fire on all cylinders. Nor can the offensive line seem to patch together a complete game, as run blocking was solid, but 4 sacks and another fumble show the pass blocking still wanting.
Nonetheless, when the game was on the line:
- The Steelers defense held Jacksonville to a 3 and out, with Troy Polamalu leading the way
- Ben Roethlisberger completed his final 10 passes
- The offense killed the final 4 minutes of play, with strong running from Bell and excellent catching from Heath Miller
Yes, the Steelers margin of victory was only 8, but they only needed it to be 1. At the end of the day the Pittsburgh Steelers took care of business by beating at team it should beat and had had to beat, and that’s not something which Steelers Nation could say 7 days ago.
Next week the Steelers travel to Cleveland, and it is there where they will begin to determine if this game at Jacksonville carries larger significance moving forward.