The Pittsburgh Steelers rarely seem to make things easy, but they do get hot sometimes, and they are hot right now, winners of their last five and mixing in a few blowouts along the way. They are facing a 3-6 team today, but that 3-6 team also happens to be the Jackonsville Jaguars, who came into town twice last year and beat them. And this game is on the road.
But being on the road has actually been kind to the Steelers. They have a 14-1-1 record in their last 16 road games and haven’t lost since Week Three of the 2017 season, which only came in overtime. They haven’t necessarily faced a murderer’s row away from Heinz Field, but you don’t post a .906 winning percentage without being good.
In terms of personnel, the biggest item to watch for is how the Steelers contend with the absence of Stephon Tuitt, who is missing his first game of the season after suffering an elbow injury late in their last game. He will be replaced primarily by Tyson Alualu, who has generally been a stout run defender.
The other injury absence will be Marcus Gilbert once again, missing his fourth game in a row and fifth of the season. Matt Feiler will have started as many games there as he has by the end of the day, and he has played ‘above the line’ in each. I’ll be really interested to see how he looks today against the Jaguars’ front as he gets into a groove with consistent first-team reps and live fire.
A recent issue has been slow starts on defense. They’ve allowed opening-drive scores in two of their past three games, including the Panthers’ first opening-drive touchdown of the year. The Browns scored twice, albeit two field goals, in the first quarter a couple of weeks ago.
Mike Tomlin has stressed the importance of his team taking less time the ‘warm up’ to the game as the season progresses, because that is what the good teams do. They get into the rhythm of things right out of the gate and put the pressure on early.
Outside of the Browns game, they have been doing that during their five-game winning streak, scoring a touchdown in the first quarter in four of their last five games during the streak. At least one. They’ve scored two offensive touchdowns twice during that run.
A huge matchup will be Bud Dupree against Ereck Flowers, who is starting at left tackle for the Jaguars after being on the team for just a couple weeks. He is their fourth different starter there, the first two being on injured reserve. Flowers was a first-round bust with the Giants who was cut loose after a couple games earlier this year.
One thing I expect to carry over from their last game is more 3-4 defense from the Steelers. They used it with success against the Panthers to shut down the run, even at the expense of the screen game. You want to make Blake Bortles beat you.