It’s been a long time, quite frankly, since ‘Jaguars Week’ has really meant something around Pittsburgh, considering the fact that they went a decade without going to the playoffs, or even posted a winning record in that span, losing all three games that the Jacksonville Jaguars had against the Pittsburgh Steelers between 2008 and 2016.
Even though Jacksonville is just 3-6 this year, however, if you ask the right person on the team, you will get at the truth, and that is that this is a group that hasn’t forgotten nor forgiven what the Jaguars did to this team last year. Twice. At home.
And in case you were wondering, the right person is almost always Keith Butler, who has a long history of giving forthright answers, perhaps even to Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s chagrin. While his players have been well-coached to say that this is a new year with two new teams, Butler wasn’t swallowing.
He was still lamenting the Jaguars “beating the stew out of us” to swallow that, as he told reporters yesterday when asked if he had ‘gotten’ over last season’s defeats, according to the team’s communications department (the answer was no).
“I don’t think you get over that”, he said. “So we got a bye. How many times have we had a bye in the playoffs? It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Most of the time we’ve been playing the Wild Card. We had a bye last year, came back and they beat us. They did a good job, they have a good football team”.
The Steelers, for the record, most recently were afforded a first-round bye in 2010, when they went on to reach the Super Bowl, losing to the Green Bay Packers. They also had a first-round bye for the 2008 run that earned them their sixth Lombardi Trophy, as well as in Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie year of 2004.
“Everybody says they are 3-6 and all this stuff. I think the turnover, takeaway ratio is probably what hurts them a little bit”, Butler continued. “They turned the ball over, but they have a good football team. They are third in the league in defense or something like that. They have good running, they missed [Leonard] Fournette, he’s played a game and so I’m sure he’s going to be feeling a lot better about this game than the game he came back so we got our work cut out for us”.
You might recall that Butler actually spent a good portion of the offseason, whenever he spoke to the media, stewing over having gotten the stew beat out of them the last time they played. Though it’s the norm to fixate on your last game when it’s a loss, the fact that the Jaguars did it twice that year really drove the knife in.
Tomlin and others have tried to downplay it, but there will be some exorcising of 2017 demons out there on the field if the Steelers prevail. You just have to find the guy willing to say what he really thinks.