If Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s goal early this week was to set an organizational tone for today’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, then I think it’s fair to say that he failed in that. While he did his best during his pre-game press conference to turn the page on last seasons’ pair of losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars, almost everybody else on the team, including coaches, have been pretty open about it being on their mind.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler was pretty open that he was still steamed about the Jaguar ‘kicking the stew’ out of his defense last year. Even David DeCastro admitted that when a team does that to you, “it’s always going to be in the back of your head”.
Joe Rutter rounded up a host of other Steelers who were echoing those same thoughts: some losses stick to you, especially when they start stacking up against one team. If you lose to the same team twice in your own stadium, it’s kind of hard to forget.
Has Bud Dupree gotten over the pain of that postseason loss? “I haven’t”, he told Rutter. When will he? “That won’t happen until we beat them”, he said. So perhaps the team can get some much-desired catharsis against the big cats today down in Jacksonville.
Joe Haden, who knows an awful lot about losing, and losing big, still felt the sting of last season’s losses to Jacksonville, particularly the second, which handed him a loss in the first postseason game of his then-eight-year playing career. “You always want to remember what they did to you”, he said.
Tomlin, who made sure to emphasize that these are different teams from last season and that “we don’t tote the luggage” of the past, still directed his video staff to piece together video reels from their losses to the Jaguars last season as a history lesson of what went wrong.
Haden in particular recalled that it wasn’t very fun reviewing the tape and trying to “figure out what were your shortcomings, what could we have done better, what plays they were getting on us, stuff like that”.
A lot of things went wrong in those two games, but no issue was bigger, quite frankly, than Ben Roethlisberger turning the ball over seven times in those eight quarters, which directly spotted the Jaguars 21 total points and set the table for another touchdown from the 18-yard line one play later.
Roethlisberger was not playing particularly well heading into that first game, but he was playing some of the best football of his career heading into the playoffs, and he did overcome the interception and fumble to throw for close to 500 yards and five touchdowns. Can he do that without the turnovers this time?