The 3-1 Pittsburgh Steelers will play the 2-2 Jacksonville Jaguars at Heinz Field Sunday afternoon in a Week 5 matchup and ahead of that game kicking off, there are several key storylines worth pointing out.
Below are what I consider to be the top five storylines for both teams ahead of Sunday’s game that will kickoff at 1:00 p.m. EST.
Tony Temper Tantrum talk – My, oh my! Even though the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens on the road last Sunday, most of this past week included players on the team talking about the sideline temper tantrum that wide receiver Antonio Brown had in the second quarter after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger failed to get him the football when he was wide-open. After Roethlisberger and head coach Mike Tomlin both chided the Steelers star wide receiver on Tuesday, Brown apologized for his Sunday actions on Wednesday and again on Friday. In the middle of all that, former Steelers safety Ryan Clark had some interesting comments about Brown while offensive coordinator Todd Haley explained on Thursday that he understood why the sideline blowup happened. Should the Steelers somehow wind up losing to the Jaguars on Sunday, you can bet several will point back to this mini drama as being one of the main reasons why.
Gilbert probably doubtful – Steelers tackle Marcus Gilbert is likely going to miss a third-consecutive game on Sunday due to the hamstring injury he’s been dealing with since Week 2. The week started off positive for Gilbert as he was listed by the team as practicing fully on Wednesday. On Thursday, however, Gilbert failed to practice and even then a few beat writers claimed to have had inside knowledge that he was still trending to returning to the field on Sunday. On Friday, Gilbert failed to practice again and thus ended the week listed as doubtful on the team’s injury report. With it looking like Gilbert will be inactive against the Jaguars, Chris Hubbard will likely start in his place once again at right tackle. In short, Gilbert seemed to go from probable to doubtful in a matter of 12 hours. Put me in for a penny that Gilbert returns in Week 6.
Jaguars secondary is a primary concern – The Steelers offense has already faced a few decent defenses so far this season and on Sunday at Heinz Field they’ll presumably face another one. The Jaguars defense enters Week 5 with a league-high 18 sacks and a league-low ANY/A (adjusted net yards per pass attempt) stat of 3.0. While the Jaguars pass rush certainly shouldn’t be overlooked ahead of Sunday’s game, it’s easy to see when you watch tape from their first four games why most are talking about cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. While these two could most certainly could currently be considered the NFL’s top cornerback duo, they’ve yet to really play against a solid quarterback-wide receiver duo this season. That will change on Sunday as Roethlisberger will obviously be looking for Brown throughout the game and regardless of which cornerback is covering him. In other words I think they will get down and get with it against the Jaguars.
Run runaway – Sunday’s meeting between the Steelers and Jaguars features two teams with great running backs and defenses that have had struggles when it comes to not giving up big runs. Sure, the Jaguars defense enters Sunday’s game ranked last in the NFL against the run, but that stat-driven ranking doesn’t show that 214 of the 662 total rushing yards allowed by the Jaguars defense in four games came on five plays. Even though the Jaguars run defense might not really be the worst in the league right now, they can still be run on nonetheless so expect to see a somewhat heavy amount of Le’Veon Bell and James Conner on Sunday. The Steelers defense will also be looking to stop the Jaguars two-headed monster of rookie Leonard Fournette and veteran Chris Ivory on Sunday. The Steelers base 3-4 defense has struggled against the run through four games and most notably outside the guards and thus the Jaguars would be wise to try some heavy formations in an effort to exploit that personnel grouping on the ground early and often.
This one goes to 11?– While the Steelers will likely fail to have all 22 intended starters on the field Sunday, it looks like all intended 11 defensive starters will play as long as safety Mike Mitchell suits up. The Steelers have yet to have all 11 defensive intended starters on the field so far this season and that feat was never accomplished in 2016. In fact, you might have to go back to 2014 for the last time such an event occurred. Do you believe in miracles and is this the shape of things to come?