The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2017 season ended not only prematurely, but also bitterly, suffering an early postseason exit after falling to the Jacksonville Jaguars at home in the Divisional Round by a score of 45-42. The wounds are still fresh, but it’s time to relive the 2017 season that was, starting from the beginning.
Chapter IX – Tried to Zig, Got Jagged Instead
There is one team in the history of the NFL that has come into Pittsburgh twice over the course of one season and beaten the Steelers on both occasions. That is the Jacksonville Jaguars, and following the 2017 season, they have now done so twice, with both victories being a gut punch to Steeler Nation.
The first loss sent them into a tailspin, causing them to wonder just what kind of team the Steelers actually are. Sure, they slipped up in Chicago, but how could they lose to the Jaguars in Pittsburgh? Jacksonville had not even been to the playoffs in a decade.
The Jaguars would eventually prove themselves to be the real deal, going so far as to win their division and reaching the AFC Championship game, where the Steelers found themselves a year ago, and that made the loss sting perhaps a bit less in hindsight—that is, at least it was a loss to a good team.
But the game as it unfolded was actually far from the blowout that it ended up looking like on paper. The Steelers even scored first. The defense forced a three-and-out and then a 49-yard long ball to Antonio Brown immediately opened things up, but they had to settle for a field goal.
Leonard Fournette would leap into the end zone from two yards out early in the second quarter to give the Jaguars the lead, but Chris Boswell added a field goal with just a few seconds remaining to make it a 7-6 game at halftime. And the Steelers would go on a 14-play drive to open the second half, going to far as to reach the two-yard line on third and goal, but after Ben Roethlisberger failed to connect with Brown, it was Boswell again who game them their second and final lead at 9-7. The defense even subsequently forced another three-and-out with T.J. Watt recording a sack on third down.
It was from that point on that things got ugly. Roethlisberger would throw an interception looking for Brown short and to the left, picked off by Telvin Smith and returned for a touchdown. On the sixth play of the following drive—on third and 17—he would look for Brown deep, throwing slightly high, batted down by Jalen Ramsey and intercepted by Barry Church, also returned for a score.
Suddenly it was 20-9 and the offense was shellshocked. The Jaguars’ defensive front smelled blood and began to put pressure on the offensive line, making things even harder on Roethlisberger. He would throw two more interceptions to Tashaun Gipson before it was over.
The nail in the coffin came at the two-minute warning. Facing third and two from the 10-yard line, the Steelers sold out to stop Fournette and force a punt, but he broke through the lines and raced 90 yards for the score. Any hope of coming back at that point quickly died, and the embarrassment was completed, 30-9.