One of the biggest worries about the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into the playoffs is the deep ball. Not on offense, they’re starting to find their groove there, but defensively. We’ve talked your ear off about how many chunk plays they’ve allowed through the air over the second half of the season, the most 40+ yard completions in two decades. But if there is any silver lining, albeit a pretty obvious one, it’s that the team spent their off week doing everything they can to fix it.
“The way we practiced last week, by no means was that an off week or a bye week,” Mike Mitchell told reporters. “I think I ran more go balls sprints last week than I probably have all year combined. Coaches were really emphasizing all the plays we messed up on and obviously a lot of that was vertical passing routes. So we were running, we were working last week. I think we have a lot of things fixed.”
Communication is going to be key, as we highlighted to start the week, and something this defense hasn’t been able to reliably, consistently do for most of the season. It helps that Jacksonville doesn’t have much of a vertical passing attack but any team or quarterback can hit wide open receivers in this league. It isn’t the fear or Blake Bortles carving up Pittsburgh like Tom Brady. It’s simply the secondary letting Bortles have easy throw after easy throw.
Mitchell cautioned that all the talk is just that – talk, and that until it’s proven it’s cleaned up on the field, there are no guarantees.
“But again, this is just talk. I can’t show you guys we have it fixed until we go out there Sunday and have it fixed.”
In the first matchup, Jacksonville had just one completion over 20 yards, a 31 yard gain to Marqise Lee. But that came on a 3rd and 7 and though the Jags didn’t get points out of it, they were able to flip the field. Field position, along with great defense, is exactly how they look to win games.
T.J. Watt, Mike Mitchell and Joe Haden preview our AFC Divisional Round matchup vs. the Jaguars, correcting past mistakes, Blake Bortles' mobility and more. pic.twitter.com/EVqP8FELVz
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 10, 2018