Will the Pittsburgh Steelers win their sixth game in a row today? Will the Jaguars win their first game in their past six attempts? Barring a tie, or an asteroid, one of these two things should happen today. A Steelers win would preserve their standing as the team in the driver’s seat for the second seed in the AFC with the 7-3 Patriots idle during their bye.
While Marcus Gilbert and Stephon Tuitt are obviously out, as we knew, the remainder of the inactives leave no surprises, those being Mason Rudolph, Justin Hunter, Zach Banner, Marcus Allen, and Brian Allen.
For the Jaguars, they will be starting two new offensive linemen, including Ereck Flowers making his first start with the team as their fourth different left tackle. Hopefully Bud Dupree can have a good day.
Chris Boswell slipped as he kicked the opener. Following a short run by Leonard Fournette, Donte Moncrief caught a pass against T.J. Watt for a first down near midfield. Fournette added three one play later. Adding another three-yarder set up third and four. On the play, Blake Bortles missed his connection with T.J. Yeldon. The ensuing punt went for a touchback.
James Conner was limited to two yards on first down. A screen pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster got a yard shy of the chain. On third and one, Ben Roethlisberger had no room on a sneak attempt for a failed third-down conversion. Jordan Berry punted from the 28, with a fair catch being made at the 21.
Bortles was under pressure immediately, forcing an early pass to D.J. Chark, their rookie, with the Steelers’ rookie Terrell Edmunds making the quick tackle on a five-yard gain. On second down, Fournette picked up about three, rode down by Dupree. Finally third and two, Vince Williams broke up the pass to force another punt. Ryan Switzer called for a fair catch at the 25.
Conner’s second carry fared the same as his first, a two-yard pickup, with Yannick Ngokue flagged for unnecesary roughness after the play. Now at the 42, Conner found some room on a draw for nine yards. On second and one, immediate pressure busted an intended play-action pass, but an illegal shift wiped out the play, making it second and six. Out of 01 personnel, Roethlisberger waited far too long to find Smith-Schuster on a crossing route, ultimately throwing behind him for an incompletion. Foolish mistake. And then he threw behind Vance McDonald for another incompletion, resulting in another punt. Berry’s punt was downed inside the 10 by Cameron Sutton.
From the six, Fournette was able to get up to about the 10 on first down to get some space. On second down, he got about 11 on a quick draw. Sticking with the big back, he picked up four one play later before checking out. Carlos Hyde forced a missed tackle to add a few yards. Now third and short, Yeldon converted on the ground for six. Sean Davis on the tackle.
Still on the ground, Hyde checked back in but was stopped after two yards. Fournette looked for the edge but Coty Sensabaugh was able to trip him up after four yards. On third and four, Bortles scrambled for a first down as pressure creeped up. An illegal contact penalty added an additional five yards to the end of the play.
Now across midfield for the first time for either team, Yeldon rushed for six yards between the tackles on first down. The Jaguars’ line with two backups starting has been controlling the line of scrimmage. Fournette added two for another third and short, then picked up the two needed.
At the 36, Hyde dragged his way forward for five yards to end the first quarter, scoreless, but with the Jaguars in field goal range. Fournette broke a few tackles for a big run, but finally Jacksonville was flagged for a hold, making it second and 15 from the 41. Dupree supplied the pressure to force Bortles step up and get an early pass out, Mike Hilton on the tackle for five yards. On third and 10, Yeldon added six to get down to the 30 to make it a field goal range. Josh Lambo made it from 48 for the first points, 3-0.
Roethlisberger’s pass over the middle to James Washington was broken up for an incompletion. Conner was dropped for a loss on second down. Now third and 11, Antonio Brown couldn’t make the catch at the sticks with Jalen Ramsey in coverage. Berry’s third punt was returned to the 42 after a 23-yard return.
Fournette beat Davis in the open field for a 20-yard run inside the Steelers’ 40 to begin the drive. Hyde had an easy alley for 11 yards now inside the 30 and back into field goal range in two plays. He added another seven. But after a tackle for loss, the defense was able to bottle up a screen for a third-down stop. Lambo added a second field goal to make it 6-0.
Opening with four receivers, Roethlisberger was immediately intercepted by Ramsey. It was ruled incomplete on the field, but Jacksonville challenged it and it showed that the ball never hit the ground. So now the Jaguars start the drive from the Steelers’ 47.
Fournette continued to pummel the Steelers’ seven-man front for another 11-yard run. Bortles finally put the ball in the air when he didn’t have to and overthrew his tight end down the field. A hold on the following play made it second and 13. Javon Hargrave was on the tackle on second down after four yards. Bortles’ third-down pass went off the hands of one receiver and into another for the conversion.
Following a too many men in the huddle penalty, on first and 15 from the 26, Tyson Alualu made the tackle on Fournette after a two-yard gain. A four-yard catch by the tight end set up third and nine again. On that play, Bortles was sacked by Hargrave to force another Lambo field goal to make it 9-0.
After a touchback, an incompletion opened the drive. Smith-Schuster added eight to make it third and two. Conner was given the ball and got a good head of steam and converted despite early contact. Conner came up with a short reception at the two-minute warning. From the 37, Roethlisberger’s pass was too long for Antonio Brown down the right sideline. Now third and eight, McDonald wasn’t prepared for a pass behind him as the quarterback felt he was pressured from behind, resulting in yet another punt, on the first drive in which they recorded an offensive first down.
After a touchback on Berry’s punt, Bortles threw it right away, incomplete. Hargrave got Bortles again for his first two-sack game of the game. Yeldon was tackled by Watt immediately for one yard as the Steelers used their final timeout with 1:28 to play in the half. Switzer fielded the punt at the 30 and returned it to the 37.
On first down, Roethlisberger was immediately picked off again for the second time in three drive, overthrowing Brown and picked off by Barry Church. Davis missed an immediate interception opportunity on the first play. Bortles then overthrew Westbrook, and then scrambled out of the pocket for another overthrow. Punting with 48 seconds remaining, Cooke’s punt went for a touchback.
Roethlisberger threw a quick out to McDonald for nine yards, the best play so far. Another short pass to McDonald got a first down and a few more yards. Now with 32 seconds to go, Roethlisberger hit Washington for a first down on a great catch. Brown’s first catch came in the middle of the field for seven yards that left just nine seconds to go after a spike. His incompletion down the field left three seconds to play on fourth and three. They tried a running back screen that didn’t even pick up the first down.