While Marcus Gilbert was not on the field for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first meeting this season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he was, at least, standing on the sideline as an observer. The right tackle was recovering from a hamstring injury that dogged him through much of the first half of the season, and could only stand idly by as his teammates struggled.
While it wouldn’t be fair to place the burden on Gilbert’s replacement, Chris Hubbard, it is true that the offensive line—and the tight ends, and the running backs—had trouble containing the Jaguars’ pass rush. Calais Campbell in particular was a problem, and he typically lines up on the offensive right side.
As his head coach yesterday praised Gilbert for being able to quickly reacclimate himself after spending a month on the suspended list, he was focused instead on the Jaguars and changing the outcome of the first time around, not wanting to stand idly by once again.
“It was tough just to watch because we knew we had the game in control”, he said. “We were winning at halftime and then for us to drop an egg, that was heartbreaking”. In actuality, they were trailing 7-6 at halftime, but scored a field goal early in the third quarter to take a 9-7 lead. And then Jacksonville returned two interceptions for touchdowns, turning the game on its head.
“That’s why you go through these games, especially at the beginning of the year, to really figure out your opponent. We did enough study on the film to see what we have this go around”, though as Mike Tomlin said, that really informs more about specific personnel matchups than it does in terms of overall game plans, given how each team has evolved since the first meeting.
This time, Gilbert is just looking for the Steelers to assert themselves in the game, doing whatever it is that they intend to do without much concern to what the Jaguars intend to do about it. Perhaps he feels that the offense got way from itself in the first meeting, or was taken off its guard by certain things Jacksonville was showing.
“I think we will just play our game. If we play too passive and worry about the conditions, then we won’t win the game”, the veteran lineman told reporters. “We will sit back there and turn the ball over. We don’t want any of that negative stuff to happen. We need to stay on schedule, control the line of scrimmage whether it’s passing or running the ball. Everything else will sort out itself”.
The Steelers did not run the ball much in the first meeting. Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 55 times, while Le’Veon Bell only recorded 15 carries, though he scarcely averaged three yards per carry for his efforts. Put simply, it’s obvious that they need to do virtually everything better than they did in the first game.