So have we yet reached a point in the 2017 season that we can stop regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars as some massive disappointment? While the specific result itself went about as poorly as you can imagine, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns, the Jaguars have proven that they are one of the top teams in the AFC.
The Jaguars were ‘just’ a 2-2 team at the time, but starting with their victory over the Steelers, they have won four of their past five and have a 6-3 record, tied for the third-best record in the AFC behind only the Steelers and the Patriots, alongside the Chiefs, whom Pittsburgh has already beaten. They also just knocked off the only other 6-3 team in the Titans, and so are 2-1 against some of the better teams in the AFC.
They are also 5-1 against teams who have winning records, including the Lions and the Vikings, the latter of whom are 7-2. It’s time to stop considering the Jaguars loss (the loss itself, not the manner in which it occurred) a letdown, and another example of the Steelers ‘playing down to their competition’.
While they have obviously gotten some help from their defense, the Jaguars’ maligned offense has been averaging 25.1 points per game, ninth in the league and almost two and a half points per game higher than what the Steelers are averaging.
Even with Leonard Fournette missing a couple of games, they still have the top-ranked rushing offense, averaging 163 rushing yards per game, while he and Chris Ivory have combined for seven scores on the ground. Blake Bortles has also thrown 11 touchdowns to a good-for-him seven interceptions as the offense has relied more on the ground game.
But it is of course their defense that is driving their current run of success. They have by far the best scoring defense by better than a point and a half, allowing just 14.9 points per game. While teams have been able to run against them, it is partly because they haven’t been able to throw the ball, allowing only 165.1 passing yards per game, and the second-fewest yards allowed in total.
It helps when you have the deadliest pass-rush in the game with a league-leading 35 sacks—nearly four per game—and arguably the best cornerback tandem in the league with Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, who have shut down most of their opponents the way they did Pittsburgh’s passing attack.
When the Steelers lost at Heinz Field to the Jaguars in Week Five, they lost to a good team, period. They shouldn’t have been dominated the way they were, but it’s hard to avoid when you throw five interceptions as a team.