The Pittsburgh Steelers have struggled mightily in the first half in a number of areas, but Ben Roethlisberger’s two touchdowns, both long passes to Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, they are at least somewhat competitive at 28-14, and they have come back from 14-point deficits in the playoffs.
Roethlisberger has two touchdown passes, but he also has an interception that set up a touchdown and a fumble on a sack that was returned 50 yards for another touchdown. The Jaguars have three rushing touchdowns as well, two by Leonard Fournette, but the rookie back suffered an ankle injury and is questionable to return.
JuJu Smith-Schuster returned the kickoff to the 23. Le’Veon Bell was held to two yards on first down. Off play action, Roethlisberger threw a screen to Bell for seven, setting up a third and inches. Faking a wide pitch to Bell, Roethlisberger shoveled the pass to Vance McDonald for the conversion.
A toss in the flat to Bell was held for only three yards, but Jalen Ramsey was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, adding 15 yards. Across midfield, Bell was held to no gain. Off play action, Roethlisberger connected with McDonald for another first down, beating Barry Church.
From the 32, Jesse James slipped in between two tacklers for a first down, poor effort from the defense. From the 20 now, Bell gained two yards up the middle, but was dropped for a loss on second down. Now third and long, Roethlisberger looked down the field for Bell, beating Telvin Smith by reaching back inside for the score, a beautiful throw and catch as the Steelers crawl back, now down 28-21.
Fournette, returning to the game, picked up four yards on first down from the 23. Blake Bortles bobbled the snap and had to recover for a loss. Now third and eight, Bortles was able to scramble for the first down. T.J. Yeldon had a big block on Mike Mitchell down the field.
At the 40, Fournette was cut down after two yards by Joe Haden. Bortles was incomplete looking for Fournette over the middle. On third and eight, again, the defense flushed Bortles out wide, and L.J. Fort was able to record a pass defensed to save another conversion. Eli Rogers called for a fair catch at the 20.
From the 19, after holding on to the ball too long, Roethlisberger was lucky to get the ball out, finding Rogers for about six yards. A screen to McDonald picked up a nice chunk of yards for 22 yards. After a fake handoff and then pump fake, Roethlisberger went back underneath to Bell for a first down.
From the Jaguars’ 40, Bell was held to just a yard up the middle. A screen to Bell picked up nothing. On third and nine from the 39, Roethlisberger was hit as he threw, the ball fluttering incomplete, hit by Dante Fowler. He was looking for Martavis Bryant deep. Jordan Berry’s punt bounced into the end zone.
On first down from the 20, Fournette was strung out of bounds for no gain. Stephon Tuitt wrapped up Fournette on a screen pass for no gain. On third and 10, Fort just missed a tackle on T.J. Yeldon that yielded a first down and suddenly changed the complexion of the game, which would have forced a punt.
Bortles’ first pass from the 33 after the conversion was high and incomplete. Sean Davis, moving up into the box, stopped Fournette for no gain. On third and 10 once again, on the first play of the fourth, Artie Burns came up with the stop on a pass down the field to force the punt. Robert Golden came up with the partial block, resulting in a short punt to only the 48, in Jaguars territory.
Out of 22 personnel, Bell backed his way up the field for six yards. On second and four, he picked up another three yards to set up third and one. Bell got the handoff, but was held short. On fourth and a foot, Roethlisberger used play action but struggled to find an open receiver. He tried to force a pass to Smith-Schuster, who could not come up with the fingertip catch in tight coverage, resulting in another turnover on downs at the 39-yard line.
Now on the defense to get the ball back, Fournette was stopped after a yard on first down. Bortles was errant on a long ball, incomplete. On third and long, once again, Bortles found Lee for the conversion. This time Bortles hit on the deep pass for 45 yards to set up first and goal, getting inside of Burns. At the three, Fournette effortlessly punched it in to make it 35-21, reestablishing a two-touchdown margin with about a sixth of the game remaining.
On first down following a touchback, Roethlisberger quickly connected with Brown for 27, getting out of bounds across midfield on a crossing route. A quick throw to McDonald over the middle added five. Roethlisberger’s pass was deflected and incomplete. The officials missed a blatant roughing the passer penalty. On third and five, he forced a ball incomplete that was closer to a Jaguar than a Steeler. Now fourth and five, Brown beat A.J. Bouye down the field, catching the long touchdown to make it a seven-point game yet again.
The pressure swings back yet again on the defense, needing a stop in a 35-28 game with nine minutes to play. Haden made the tackle on Fournette coming off the edge for two yards. Limited to three on second down, the Jaguars were put into a third and five, but they have been converting on third and long. And of course they converted this one on a 40-plus yard swing pass outlet for Yeldon.
Down to the 30, Yeldon picked up almost six yards. Fournette got just one on second down. Now third and four, Bortles converted over the middle to Dede Westbrook for eight yards as the clock ticked to five minutes remaining, threatening to go up two possessions. And then they did, hitting Tommy Bohanon off of play action up the middle as the fullback, uncovered. The score is 42-28 with under five minutes to play. Desperation mode has more than arrived.
Toussaint returned the kickoff to about the 25. With 4:13 to work with, Roethlisberger started the drive sailing a pass high over everybody. He threw into tight double coverage on second down on a pass that was lucky to be incomplete, and not intercepted. On third and 10, he sidearmed a pass to McDonald for the first down. From the 40, he looked for Smith-Schuster incomplete. McDonald dropped the second-down pass, which would have been just a short gain. On third down, he scrambled for 15. Pittsburgh used its first timeout.
With 3:20 left now, a deep shot to Bryant was batted down, the officials missing a blatant pass interference penalty that would have made it first and goal. Bell made a couple of defenders miss to pick up about 22.
Down to the 23, with 3:04 remaining, Roethlisberger found McDonald on a short pass out of bounds. He looked for Brown, but Ramsey nearly intercepted it. On third and five with 2:53 to play, McDonald picked up the first, but inbounds. From the nine, Roethlisberger looked to scramble, but threw a backward pass instead to Bell, who took it into the end zone, making it 42-35. It was technically a lateral, making it a rushing score.
Chris Boswell lined up for an onside kick, and barely even reached five yards, an overall truly awful attempt. Tyler Matakevich was flagged for illegal touching, which now puts the ball at the 36, in field goal range. After a gain gain by Fournette to get to the two-minute warning, he got another couple near the 30-yard line as the Steelers used their second timeout. He added another five, nearly getting the first down, Pittsburgh using its final timeout. Jacksonville hit the 45-yard field goal to give the team a 10-point lead with under two minutes to play, the Steelers having no timeouts.
Following a touchback, Roethlisberger threw over the middle to Darrius Heyward-Bey, incomplete. He had to throw the ball at his back’s feet to avoid a sack on second down. McDonald dropped the third-down pass that would have gone for at least 10. Now fourth and 10, McDonald converted but did not get out of bounds. McDonald picked up a chunk and out of bounds with 58 seconds remaining. Bryant picked up a big chunk down to the five-yard line.
On first and goal, Roethlisberger was pressured and threw the ball to the ground. A flag was called for intentional grounding, resulting in a 10-second runoff. Brown did not get out of bounds on the following play, and Roethlisberger threw high to Xavier Grimble incomplete in the end zone. With four seconds to play, down 10, Roethlisberger hit Smith-Schuster for the touchdown in a futile bid to come back.
On the ensuing kick, with one second to play, Boswell squib kicked the ball right to the deep return man to end the game.