The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments for as long as they push on through the postseason, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Game Edition – what is the single biggest key to victory for the Steelers to advance to the AFC Championship game next week?
It took the Steelers six years to return to the AFC Championship game from when they were last there, for the fifth time during the span of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. He can make it six appearances in the conference finale with a win today over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In order to do so, they will have the beat a team that embarrassed them during the regular season. The Jaguars spent a good part of that day harassing Roethlisberger in the backfield and providing tight coverage on his targets, registering a number of passes defensed and, of course, intercepting five of his passes.
Offensively, they controlled much of the game with Leonard Fournette on the ground, who did not truly break out until the end when he ripped off a 90-yard touchdown run. But prior to that, he was doing just enough at the right times to drive the Jaguars’ offense.
In my opinion, the biggest thing that needs to change from the last game to this one is the pass protection. While Roethlisberger was only sacked twice in the game, he was routinely thrown off his spot and his rhythm, particularly by Calais Campbell, and that contributed to a number of his turnovers in addition to wiping a touchdown off the board due to a holding call Campbell drew.
Facilitating a balanced offense with Le’Veon Bell on the ground could also be key, and is something they were not doing even in the early goings of the first game while the score remained close. Ball security may or may not be something to monitor as well, to employ some understatement.
Containing the ground game, including Blake Bortles at quarterback, will be a tough and crucial assignment, and is something that they have been talking about for the past week.