Revenge is often calculated, cruel and relentless. The Pittsburgh Steelers hope to bring all these attributes Sunday when they kick off their revenge tour against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steelers will be looking to avenge an embarrassing 30-9 home loss to the Jaguars earlier this season, a game in which the Steelers were humiliated in every phase of it. Now it is the Steelers turn to dish back the punishment that the Jaguars handed to them. The Steelers should not have to look hard for the best route for punishment as the easiest way is to force the game into the hands of Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.
In their last meeting, Bortles completed just eight passes for 95 yards yet the Jaguars still pummeled the Steelers to a 30-9 victory. Bortles’ last attempted pass came with 8:11 remaining in the third quarter, yet that did not matter as the Jaguars forced five turnovers and ran for 231 yards. The Steelers will have to score and keep the football safe, forcing Bortles to beat them through the air, as the Jaguars quarterback has struggled mightily this season in high leverage situations.
For starters, Bortles has not had great success outside of Jacksonville this season, as the quarterback has completed just 55-percent of his passes on the road along with six touchdowns to eight interceptions. Bortles’ passer rating at home is an elite 98.0 but on the road his passer rating plummets to a staggering 69.4. Bortles is in store for perhaps his toughest road test of the season – a cold weather playoff game at Heinz Field.
Perhaps the biggest key the Steelers must achieve is forcing Bortles into uncomfortable situations that highlight his weaknesses. A big weakness for the Jaguars quarterback has been his production on third down. Bortles has posted his lowest passer rating (66.1), completion percentage (54.9%) and interceptions (6) on third down. The tale of tape becomes even more appealing as Bortles faces third and long situations. On third and 7-9, Bortles has completed under 60-percent of his passes and thrown two interceptions. On third and even longer (10+ yards), Bortles has completed just under 50-percent of his passes and just seven of his 48 pass attempts have moved the chains.
Bortles did not attempt a pass in the fourth quarter in his first matchup against the Steelers this season and that is going to have to change should the Steelers want to continue their postseason journey. The fourth quarter has not been kind to Bortles this season as the quarterback has thrown seven interceptions and posted 54.0 passer rating. If Bortles is throwing the football at high volume in the fourth it is safe to assume the Steelers are leading and that would be the final nail in the coffin for Pittsburgh to exact their revenge.
The Jaguars quarterback has been a turnover machine when trailing, throwing just five touchdowns to nine interceptions while behind. Not only that but Bortles has been sacked 15 times while trailing as he struggles in the pocket waiting for deeper yardage plays to develop.
While Bortles inability to carry the offense is the Jaguars biggest weakness, it is no secret. In fact, the same numbers and knowledge were available for the Steelers to see the first time around but yet the team still could not secure a victory. With the Jaguars having a stout defense and run game, it will take a complete effort from the Steelers, both offensively and defensively to put Bortles in a position of vulnerability.