It may be 2020 and “stop the run” sounds like an outdated mentality. But the Pittsburgh Steelers have played a slew of old-school offenses in recent weeks. That trend will continue Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. And Cam Heyward knows the goal is to stop Jaguars’ back James Robinson. Heyward discussed that mentality in speaking to reporters yesterday.
“You gotta start early,” he told reporters Wednesday via the Steelers’ YouTube channel. “You gotta get off the field as a defense. I think stopping in the run is paramount. You look at how they’re constructed and what they want to do. It’s not like they want to continue to go downfield and have these big plays throwing the ball.”
Jacksonville has an underrated run game led by an underrated lead runner. UDFA James Robinson is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards with nearly 700, leading all rookies in that category. He’s made for a quick transition from the Leonard Fournette era and is more ammunition to the theory that backs are – to use Dave Bryan’s word – fungible. But that doesn’t make him any easier to stop. He’s rushed for at least 99 yards his last three games and the Jags haven’t been shy about getting him the ball. Robinson’s toted the rock at least 22 times in each of those games.
Heyward said Jacksonville’s mentality has an impact on opposing offenses.
“They want to just possess the ball. They want to make your offense feel like they have to be impatient because they’re not going to have a lot of chances. But as a defense, we gotta get off the field.”
Jacksonville has had success on the ground in their upsets and narrow losses to the Steelers in past years. In the Steelers’ come-from-behind 2018 victory, the Jags ran 43 times for 179 yards. In their 2017 regular season upset of Pittsburgh, Jacksonville ran for over 230 yards, then another 164 in their playoff rematch. Pittsburgh may be heavy favorites in this one but if anything, Jacksonville has gotten the better of these matchups. And they’ve done with by winning the point of attack. The Steelers have allowed 125+ yards rushing in three straight games, the first time that’s happened since 1999.
In addition to stopping the run, Heyward said the defense needs to continue to be aggressive and taking the ball away.
“We have to create some splash. I think if we do that, we’ll be successful.”
Jacksonville’s offense has turned the ball over 12 times this season. They’ll face UDFA Jake Luton making his third NFL start. He’s done a good-enough job with the football, throwing just a pair of picks in his first two starts. Both games he’s started have been close. A two-point loss to the Texans followed by a four-point defeat to the Packers last Sunday.