As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) today’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa. My prediction is at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
1. They run between the tackles.
Like we wrote about in our scouting report, it’ll be hard to run on the perimeter against this aggressive, fast-flow Jaguars’ front seven. Even running power will be tricky with the gaps created because of the pulling guard. This is a game where I’m ok with a heavy dose, relatively speaking, of Roosevelt Nix and a physical, man-blocking run game. Give Jacksonville a taste of their own medicine. Run game has to be more successful than it was in both matchups last year, the playoff game hindered by how the game started.
2. Randy Fichtner floods their zone coverage.
Getting away from some of the cliches that could apply to any game – win the turnover battle, convert on third down, get pressure, all things you’d file under “DUH” – he has to take advantage of when they play zone. Line up 2×2, two receivers on both sides, and expect to see Cover 3. As I said yesterday, JuJu Smith-Schuster is a critical component to that. Gottta design route concepts to overload and outnumber their zone coverage.
3. Play man coverage at their own risk (and have an answer for Blake Bortles’ legs).
Critical piece to this game. Bortles definitely struggles more against man than zone but the hidden element are his legs when you play man-to-man. If his first read isn’t there, the dude’s going to take off and he’s hurt the Steelers with his legs before.
So you can play man coverage but have an answer for his legs. Rush only three, I know most of you hate that, spy with an ILB – L.J. Fort on third downs – or play Cover 1 Lurk/Robber to have the SS in zone with eyes on the quarterback. Do something so Bortles doesn’t frustrate you…and has to beat you with his arm.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. The defensive line doesn’t win at the line of scrimmage.
Can’t let the Jaguars establish the ground game, create manageable third downs, and control time of possession. Recipe to lose, as this team has seen before. Though the run game has suffered, they’ve got Leonard Fournette back with a week under his belt. I don’t take anything for granted. You shouldn’t either.
2. They lose the turnover battle (by a lot).
You never want to lose the turnover battle but in this game, the Steelers could be -1 and still come out on top. What they can’t do is lose so badly as they did last year, where those turnovers created instant offense the way of a pair of pick 6’s. Make Jacksonville earn everything they get.
3. Jacksonville’s trickery works.
Expect them to have a couple tricks up their sleeve. They’ve already attempted a fake field goal and while not as exotic, will get the ball to their receivers in the run game. Their speed makes them all run threats but hone in on Dede Westbrook, who has five carries already.