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: How will the Steelers find greater success against the Jaguars’ cornerback duo than the first time around?
If the Steelers are to reach the Super Bowl then they will probably be getting the opportunity to avenge two of their three losses during the regular season. One, at least, is assured, as they are scheduled to host the Jaguars for a rematch of their Week Five loss in the same location.
While Jacksonville’s pass rush was a frequent issue, the primary problem with which the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to contend was the defensive play of the defense’s starting cornerback tandem, Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, who are both agile and physical, with ball skills to boot.
While Antonio Brown put up his numbers in the game, the Jaguars duo was frequently the better of their matchups, and rose in particular during key situations that stymied the offense as it entered trailing mode in the second half following a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns, one of them set up by a Ramsey deflection.
The main difference between now and then? Quite simply, there is a lot more stability in the passing came and between passer and targets than there was then. JuJu Smith-Schuster was not who he is now. Martavis Bryant was very much working his way back into relevance. And Vance McDonald had only been around for a month and a half or so.
Familiarity—with the pass catchers to Ben Roethlisberger, and with the Jaguars’ style and quality of coverage—must be the difference in this matchup. Of course, it would also help if the offensive line does a better job of containing the pressure. As Mike Tomlin said, rush and coverage go hand in hand.