The Pittsburgh Steelers are about to begin their 2017-2018 postseason journey, hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars in their first such hosting duty in the Divisional Round since 2010, by virtue of their being awards a bye week.
The team may have all hands on deck for the game, but are not fully healthy. Antonio Brown is trying to play after a calf injury that shortened his season by two and a half games. Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave along the defensive line both dealt with injuries, while Artie Burns at cornerback hyperextended his knee. How will these injuries affect their performance?
The Steelers won the coin toss and deferred. Chris Boswell hung the opening kickoff short and it was returned to the 34. On first down, Leonard Fournette picked up five around left guard. Off play action, Blake Bortles found a tight end for over 20 across midfield.
Down to the Steelers’ 40, Bortles connected with Marquis Lee for 13. Inside the 30, another connection to a tight end, this for 18 to set up first and goal. From the eight, Fournette got to the five, and then four. From about the one, on third and goal, the Steelers covered well on the third-down play-action pass, forcing Bortles to throw it away. On fourth down, Fournette leapt over the pile for the touchdown as the defense provides a major letdown on the opening series of the game.
Following a touchback, Ben Roethlisberger looked for Brown right away for an incompletion. JuJu Smith-Schuster was held to just two yards on a screen pass, setting up a third and eight. An inside screen to Eli Rogers was held short of the first, even though he made the first defender miss. Jordan Berry’s punt failed to travel even 40 yards, settling inside the 30.
From the 27, Fournette pushed the pile for a 10-yard gain on first down. Sean Spence was able to get to Bortles, nearly sacking him to force an incompletion. Fournette added six yards on the ground after that play. On third and four, Burns was in coverage to break up a downfield pass for Allen Hurns, forcing a punt, which bounced to be downed at the 11.
Le’Veon Bell picked up one yard out of a three-tight end set to start the drive. He was stuffed in the backfield for a loss of two on second down. On third and 11, Roethlisberger threw his first interception of the day looking for Vance McDonald, picked off by Myles Jack.
Taking over at the 18, Fournette immediately took the ball up the right sideline for the touchdown. Just liked that, the Steelers are down 14-0 in under 10 minutes.
After another touchback, Bell ripped off a 20-yard run up the middle for the first sign of lift for the team all game. A pitch toss on the following play, though, was held for no gain. Roethlisberger found Brown for 11 yards to convert another first down.
From the Jaguars’ 43, Roethisliberger sailed a pass for Rogers, who went up to get it for 13 yards. Following an incompletion on first down from the 30, Bell picked up eight on the g round to the 22. On third and two, Roethlisberger pitched the ball to Bell, who was held just short of the first down. On fourth and inches, the Steelers induced the Jaguars to take a timeout. But it worked out, because they blew up Bell in the backfield for a huge loss for a turnover on downs.
After an incompletion, Fournette went for five. On third and five from the 35, Bortles connected with Hurns in front of Spence to end the first quarter. Bortles kept the ball on a read option for nine yards to open the second quarter. Across midfield, Fournette picked up the first down with room to run, and L.T. Walton was flagged for a hold to add five more yards. Down to the 28, Bortles kept it again for a first-down run.
Inside the red zone once again for the third time, T.J. Watt missed a sack but at least was able to hit his arm to force an incompletion. Fournette spun away for eight yards. On third and two, he backed his way for four yards, setting up first and goal.
From the five, T.J. Yeldon checked in and was held to a yard. On second and goal, however, he got in as the Jaguars took a 21-0 lead in the first 20 minutes of the game.
Fitzgerald Toussaint was able to take the kick out past the 35-yard line, setting up the offense with good field position. Off play action, Roethlisberger pump faked deep before going over the middle for Rogers for seven yards. Bell burst forth for another explosive run across midfield.
At the 36, Roethlisberger nearly threw an interception to Paul Pozlusny, who batted the ball down rather than trying to grab it. Bell was lucky to add three yards on an inside screen. On third and seven, an inside shovel pass for Rogers picked up about 10.
At the 23 now, Roethlisberger looked for Brown at the back of the end zone, catching it over A.J. Bouye for the score. The deficit is now 21-7.
With the crowd back into it, the defense returned to the field at the 25, with Fournette held to two on first down. Bortles just got the ball to Fournette in front of Spence for the first, with the back limping off. Yeldon checked and picked up four. Watt was able to tackle Yeldon on a screen for four yards, setting up a third and short. At the 45, Bortles again just got the ball past a defender to Lee to about midfield.
Bortles went for the long ball to Lee, incomplete with Joe Haden tapping it incomplete. On second down, Yeldon picked up six. Now third and four, Bortles’ pass skipped off the ground incomplete, forcing just the Jaguars’ second punt of the game. The punt bounced out of bounds inside the 20, but an illegal use of hands was added at the end of the kick.
From the 25, Bell took the ball off a screen pass for about 17. Roethlisberger found McDonald for 11 already across midfield. After a near-interception, however, Roethlisberger was sacked and stripped, the ball scooped up and returned 50 yards for the score by Telvin Smith. Smith was flagged for taunting as he ran into the end zone. The Steelers trail 28-7.
Cameron Sutton was used on the kick return team, taking the ball and returning it to the 49. A short pass to Bell for three took the ball to the two-minute warning. Roethlisberger underthrew McDonald on a screen on second down. On third and seven, however, he was able to find Brown on a quick pass for the first.
From the 35, a screen to Smith-Schuster was stopped for a loss, and Roethlisberger was sacked on the following play. On third and 15, a short pass to Brown picked up only four yards. On fourth and 11, Roethlisberger was able to connected on a deep shot to Martavis Bryant at the back of the end zone, a desperation play that paid off. The Steelers take a 14-point deficit, 28-14, into the half, getting the ball to open the third quarter.