The Pittsburgh Steelers are getting set to face the Jacksonville Jaguars on their home turf this Sunday, after they came into Heinz Field a season ago and largely had their way with them twice. Of the greatest concern was stopping the Jaguars’ offense, specifically their running game, and to that end, defensive coordinator Keith Butler has made sure that they have seen a lot of last year’s tape in the interim.
“Yeah we showed it”, he told the media yesterday when asked if he has been playing the 2017 tape for his defense, according to the team’s communications department.
“It’s on our cut-ups and stuff like that. We talked about these guys and they’ve been tough for us. They are well-coached, and they are a good, physical football team. We talk about this all the time, about usually the most physical team usually wins these football games and there is no difference now”.
One thing is for certain, and that is that the Steelers were out-physicaled by this Jaguars team a year ago. That was especially the case on the offensive side of the ball, and especially in the postseason, wherein Jacksonville’s offensive line dominated Pittsburgh’s front seven. Their own front seven was also a nuisance for the Steelers’ line. The regular season game was the only bad one all year that David DeCastro had in pass protection.
Running back Leonard Fournette was the primary reason for concern against the Steelers in those two games. Combined, he rushed for 290 yards on 53 attempts with five scores. That was naturally Butler’s biggest area of concern, though he did point out that they generally held Fournette in during the first game until late, when he broke off a 90-yard run when the defense sold out for the run on a third-down play, down 14 points at the time.
The Steelers’ run defense has shown overall improvement this year, and improvement from the start of the season, so he was asked if this game against the Jaguars would be a measuring stick to see how far they had come.
“It could be, but you sit there and look at what happened last year”, he said. “We held them until they got that 90-yard run and then it just blew up the stats, but they did get that 90-yard run. They ran the ball when they had to. They did a good job of controlling the football. They did a good job of not getting behind on the chains”.
“So, as a consequence”, he said, “they can get makeable third downs. That’s part of the reason why they were successful against us last year and we have to see if we can win first and second down”.
Between the two games a year ago, the Jaguars only averaged 3.88 yards per carry on first down, just 11 successful plays out of 34 rushes. But they were better second down, averaging 4.50 yards per rush, though still not with a great success rate.
It was actually third down that was the biggest problem. Even taking out the 90-yard run, they converted five other times on third down on the ground, albeit with two scrambles in the mix.