PRELUDE TO STEELERS VERSUS JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
The Jacksonville Jaguars play the Pittsburgh Steelers plus. As an expansion team in 1995, The Jags upset the Steelers 20-16 as 10.5-point underdogs. The last time they met, the Steelers reversed the score and won 20-16. May be that will exorcize the demons. But the Jaguars still hold a 14-12 advantage in games played. I don’t remember much about the last game played. I do recall Pittsburgh’s last playoff game. The Steelers were favored by seven and at home on a very cold icy day. A Jacksonville team travelled north and punched the Steelers in the mouth taking a 21-0 lead and eventually winning 45-42. A Pittsburgh team travelled south and favored by 10.5 points. I just want them to punch Jacksonville back in the mouth for a win.
Earlier in the week, I took our dog Fifi to the veterinarian down here in Maryland. Assistants come to the car to pick up are pets in the Covid environment. I called and Kelly asked which car was mine. I said it’s the black car with the Steelers sign on the back. She comes out to get Fifi but shows me her Steelers socks. Kelly explained that she has never been to Pittsburgh but had a boyfriend that was a huge Steelers fan. They attended a game a few seasons back in Baltimore that the Steelers won. She loved the visiting Steelers fans and the team. She ended up dumping the boyfriend but not the team. Kelly remains a fervent fan of the Black and Gold. When I returned to pick up Fifi, I gave her a Terrible Towel. I love these random vignettes in Steelers Nation.
CBS is airing the Cincinnati Bengals – Washington Football team since we are in the capitol area. I guess it makes sense, but it still peeves me. Luckily, some buddies in Virginia, Rich Norman and Steve S. invited me over to watch the game in Virginia. Here we go.
Steelers offense start slowly then scores 17 points in three drives. Miss opportunity to add points at end of the half.
OFFENSE SQUANDER GREAT FIELD POSITION; DIG OUT OF HOLE
The Steelers offense starts at the Jaguars 46-yard line thanks to special teams alertly recovering the Jaguars onside kick attempt. Ben opens with a seven-yard pass to Diontae Johnson. James Conner runs five for the first down. Ben throws on first down again, but the Jags defend the pass intended for Chase Claypool. Ben finds Diontae for seven but misses him on third and three. Jacksonville calls timeout to ice Chris Boswell who misses his 45-yard field goal attempt after a bad snap by Kameron Canaday. Score remains 3-0 Jaguars.
Steelers start in a deep hole at their own five. Conner’s 25-yard run digs the offense right out of the hole. Conner gains three on his next run. Then Ben connects with Diontae for eight and another first down. Conner up the middle for three. Ben to JuJu who can only get one. Few yards after that catch. On third and six Chase Claypool gains ten. Benny Snell runs twice for three yards. On third and seven, Ben’s pass hot. Eric Ebron stretches but Jarrod Wilson jumped route and almost intercepted the pass. Steelers punt.
STEELERS GET ON THE BOARD
The Steelers next possession began at the start of the second quarter at the 24-yard line. Still down 3-0. On first down, Ben completes a deep pass to Diontae for 22 yards. Conner runs for two but avoided a five- or six-yard loss. He worked hard to avoid being brought down. Then Ben hits Claypool for ten and a first down entering Jacksonville territory at the 42. On second and ten, Conner takes a screen pass 14 yards. Steelers first down at the 28-yard line. Inexplicably, Anthony McFarland runs ball up the middle twice for two yards setting up third and eight. Ben and Diontae fail to connect and Steelers settle for a Boswell field goal to tie the game at 3-3.
The Steelers get the ball back on a punt at the 29-yard line. They waste no time. Ben hits JuJu Smith-Schuster who plows through a defender for five yards. Myles Jack hit JuJu in the back leading with his helmet to earn a well-deserved 15-yard penalty. Conner for one on the run. So, Ben throws short to Diontae for four. On third and five, James Washington toe taps Ben’s sideline pass for the first down. Ray-Ray McCloud runs the ball for three. Then Ben lays a pass right in for Claypool to score a 31-yard touchdown. The Steelers celebrate JuJu’s birthday in the end zone. Claypool now has ten TD’s in ten games. Steelers in the lead 10-3.
STEELERS SCORE OFF TAKEAWAY, WASTE ANOTHER
Minkah’s interception prevented a Jaguars score. Offense starts at the 39 after the takeaway. Conner starts left looks bottled up for a loss. James reverses field and heads right. Ben Roethlisberger does the cockroach block that takes out two defenders. Conner gains 17 from nothing. Wow.
Ebron smacked down after gaining two. Conner loses two on a short pass. So, Ben throws long to Diontae for 20. Steelers take a timeout. Ben misses Ebron for an easy touchdown after Ebron knocked down near scrimmage line. No worries. Back to Diontae who shows ridiculous concentration as the ball bounces off a defender. He catches it at the one-yard line. A 23-yard gain. J.C. Hassenauer in at fullback? Where is Derek Watt? Benny Snell in for the touchdown. Maybe the idea was to get the Jaguars defense asking the same questions then score before they could figure out the answer. Now its 17-3. The way it’s supposed to be.
The offense gets one more shot with 29 seconds left following Terrell Edmunds interception. Diontae catch for six. Ben misses JuJu deep. On third and four Conner runs 12 and Steelers take second timeout with 15 seconds to go. From midfield, Ben pass incomplete, but Jags Chris Claybrooks grabbed Claypool to prevent an easy reception. The defense pass interference places the ball at the 24 with nine seconds. Plenty of time for a shot to the end zone and then a field goal if it doesn’t work. Ben steps up and fires for end zone toward Washington but ball caught by Daniel Thomas who runs 53 yards to expire the clock. Ben being Ben. Steelers come up empty on the second takeaway and miss opportunity to make this a three-score lead. Half ends Steelers leading 17-3.
Steelers offense sleeps through third quarter. Wakes up in fourth quarter to put game out of reach.
OFFENSE SLEEPS THROUGH THIRD QUARTER
The offense ended the first half throwing into the end zone. They start the second half at the 25-yard line. Ray-Ray McCloud can’t break free on a short play and loses two yards. On second and 12, McFarland gains one yard up the middle. That is his third run up the middle for three yards. Please scratch that play from the playbook for the remainder of the game. Ben throws deep to Washington on third down but misses. Steelers punt away their first possession of the half.
The next drive starts at the 20. Diontae gains five on a Roethlisberger pass. Ben to JuJu for four who can’t reach the sticks. But on third and one, Snell up the middle for two. McCloud stopped for one. Receivers limited on yards after catch. On third and nine, McCloud gains eight so Steelers punt from their 40. During this series, Jaguars lose Josh Allen to a knee injury. More Jag defenders fall as the half wears on.
Steelers get a third position in the third quarter. Conner gains two to the 31 on first play. Two passes to Diontae gain seven of eight needed yards. I thought it was a bad spot and Diontae stretched out for the first. But no. On fourth down, Conner runs 17 into Jacksonville’s turf. An offensive eye flutters open. Jags stop Conner for no gain. Matt Feiler jumps to set up second 15. Ben throws short to Diontae who makes one defender miss but not the second. Now it’s third and 13 and Ben throws to middle of field. Ebron misses pass with another receiver in vicinity. Miscommunication? Regardless, Berry punts as the offense finishes their third quarter nap.
TAKEAWAY JUMPSTARTS OFFENSE
Steelers offense begins fourth quarter at their 26. Ben to JuJu who gains nine while punishing Jaguar defenders. Claypool cannot come down with ball but Claybrooks on ground. The Jaguars secondary getting physically abused. Ebron makes the first on a nine-yard catch and run. Ben then throws three straight incompletions. However, on the last one referees flag DJ Hayden for interfering with Claypool. Hayden suffers the further indignity from being hurt on the play. Now at the Jaguar 35, Ben connects with Claypool for eight. Chuks Okorafor false starts so it’s second and seven. I think this is the play JuJu injured his leg stepping on a penalty flag. Ebron catches another for five. But Conner caught in backfield on a short pass. The drive ends with a 47-yard field goal.
Edmunds intercepts another Luton pass giving the offense the ball at the 50. Conner up the middle for three then stopped for a loss. On third and eight, Ben finds McCloud for 13. Jaguars Josiah Scott led with helmet and the referees tack 15 more yards onto the play. Now at the 20. Ben fires it home to Ebron for seven. Steelers offense awake and scoring points again. 27-3. This game is all but over with 6:40 left to play.
MASON RUDOLPH FINISHES GAME BEHIND CENTER
The defense intercepts another pass, but the Steelers offense shuts down for the day. Mason Rudolph behind Hassenauer at center. Three straight handoffs to Snell for nine yards. Steelers punt. Defense holds Jaguars again and Marcus Rudolph kneels three times for the final two minutes of the game.
Defense gives up early score but two takeaways to end half.
DEFENSE GIVES UP EARLY SCORE
Steelers deferred the coin toss until second half. Time for the defense to see what the rookie quarterback has. Jaguars open at 25 after touchback. Instead of James Robinson on first down, Jake Luton passes on play-action and connects with Keelan Cole for 17. A great call. Now James Robinson runs for five. He gains three more. On third and two, it’s Robinson again but this time in the air for a 15-yard reception. Robinson runs 12 yards with Minkah Fitzpatrick helping Vince Williams bring him down. First and ten at the 23. Steelers defense back on their heels early. On next play, Vince Williams stops Robinson for no game. Luton throws two incompletes as pass push heats up. Still, Jacksonville scores first to go up 3-0. That was not the script I wrote for this game.
The Jaguars try to change the narrative of this story by attempting an onside kick. Steelers special teams reedit the tale back to the original storyline by recovering the kick. Offense fails so defense back on field with Steelers trailing. Bud Dupree stops Robinson for no gain. But Jaguars respond with nine-yard catch on second down. Robinson converts the third with a two-yard plunge. Jake Luton throws three incompletions. The Steelers pass rush turning up the heat. Jaguars cannot expand their lead and punt.
DEFENSE CLAMPS DOWN; TWO THREE AND OUTS
Berry’s punt gave Jaguars ball at their nine-yard line near the end of the first quarter. Robinson gains five on first down. The Jags try passing but T.J. Watt pressures Luton who throws ball away. Steelers blitz Mike Hilton on third down. Luton must pass quickly and Dupree tips ball, but no one comes up with ball. Bud almost intercepted. Jaguars punt from near the end zone.
The Steelers tie the game and Jaguars start from 25. Vince Williams stops Robinson for one on first down. Watt pressures again but Jaguars hold him back to prevent a sack. Referees see nothing. On third down Steelers deflect the ball again, but Steve Nelson pulls an Ike Taylor and cannot hold on to an interception. Jaguars punt again.
STEELERS END HALF WITH TWO TAKEAWAYS
Steelers go up 10-3 with seven minutes to go. Defense bends but prevents a Jaguars answering score. On first down from 25, Luton passes in backfield. Cam Heyward and Nelson blow it up for a four-yard loss. James Robinson runs 18 for a first down. Referees flag Nelson for a slap away from the play for 15 penalty yards. Unnecessary to give up 33 yards after starting with a good defensive play. Jaguars reinvigorated. Robinson tackled by Ola Adeniyi after gaining three. Luton to Chark for 18. Chris Conley gains 13 after a short reception. The Jaguars in the RedZone at the 12 with first down. Heyward staunches the bleeding stopping Robinson for one yard. Luton targets Tyler Eifert but Tyson Alualu deflects the ball. Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepts at the two-yard line and returns it to the 39-yard line. Huge takeaway that prevents a Jaguars score.
Steelers exploit the takeaway for seven extend the lead to 17-3. Jaguars get ball with 44 seconds left. Will they run out clock or go for points? Jake Luton answers the question with a 19-yard pass to Chark on first down. Vince Williams tackles him inbounds so Jaguars use last timeout at their 44 with 36 seconds to go. Luton passes deep for Eifert. Terrell Edmunds intercepts the ball at the 25. His first interception since early in his rookie season. The takeaway gives the offense opportunity to tack on more but the fail. Half ends with Steelers leading 17-3.
Defense force three punts, intercept two passes and stops Jaguars on fourth down. Every half should be like this.
DEFENSE BEND THEN STOP JAGS IN THIRD QUARTER
Defense takes field after Jaguars force a three and out. James Robinson still in play with just a two touchdown Steelers lead. He goes up the middle for ten before Cam Sutton and Edmunds tackle him. Robinson up the middle again but this time lineman Heyward and linebacker Robert Spillane limit him to two yards. Luton converts a third and eight to Eifert with Edmunds in defense. Jags now in Pittsburgh territory. Joe Haden tackles Robinson who gains just one. Bud Dupree jumps offsides. But Jaguars offensive line jumpy too. Next play, Luton false starts. Stephon Tuitt then tips a pass. Now Jawaan Taylor jumps to make it third and 14. Tuitt sacks Luton for first of game. Tuitt forces fumble but Luton recovers. Jaguars punt. Steelers defense aggressively pursuing Luton. But Joe Haden hurt leg on this series. He goes off on own power and remains on sideline. Scary.
The Jaguars get the ball at their 20 on the next possession. Luton to DJ Chark for eight on first play. Steelers bending on initial plays. Dupree and Heyward stop Robinson for one. On third and one Luton throws incomplete to Chark. Steelers pressure him to hurry throw. Jacksonville takes delay of game as offense comes out briefly then back to punt formation. Steelers keep defense on field but McCloud deep for punt. No trickery.
All five third quarter drives ended in punts. Jaguars have ball at their 20 following another Berry punt. Robinson up the middle for eight before Edmunds tackles him. Next play, Edmunds interferes with Cole’s reception giving Jaguars fresh set of downs. Steelers turn up the heat. Bud Dupree ends their drive sacking Luton for a nine-yard loss. Three drives; defense forces three punts.
EDMUNDS AND MINKAH ICE GAME WITH INTERCEPTIONS
The Steelers extend the lead to 20-3 creating a three-score lead. With 10:21 left to play, Jags must rely on Luton’s arm. Robinson runs for six yards, but this eats time. Tick tock. Jaguars reach midfield with 17-yard pass to Eifert. Watt stops Robinson for one. Luton throws deep incompletion. On third and nine, the Jaguars complete a 12-yard pass. But finally, the referees call an offensive lineman for holding T.J. Watt. Now it’s third and 19 and raining. Luton throws deep for Chark, but Edmunds tips the ball in the air and intercepts. He returns the ball seven yards to the 50. The Steelers offense scores a touchdown to put the game out of reach 27-3.
Time for Steelers to start salting the field with substitutes. Cam Sutton almost intercepts Luton’s first pass of the drive. Luton does get a first down on a ten-yard strike to Ellefson with Fitzpatrick in coverage. Luton targets Ellefson again but Minkah intercepts the ball. Edmunds and Fitzpatrick end any chances for a Jaguars late score.
RESERVES ON FIELD FOR FINAL DEFENSIVE STAND
The defense went back on field a final time with 3:30 to play. James Pierre tackled a Jaguar for a one-yard loss. Luton completed another pass, but Cam Sutton brought the receiver down for just three yards. Alex Highsmith tackled Devine Ozigbo to set up fourth and five. Highsmith and Mondeaux combined to prevent a first down. This game is over. Steelers 10-0!
I break special teams play into three phases: Kickoffs, punts and, field goal attempts plus PAT attempts.
Chris Boswell kicked off six times. All six were touchbacks.
The Jaguars tried some trickery attempting an onside kick following their opening score. Marcus Allen leapt to recover the kick giving the offense great starting position at the Jacksonville 46. Logan Cooke kicked for a touchback to open the second half. Advantage Steelers.
Jordan Berry punted five times averaging 43.2 yards a punt. His first travelled only 33 yards but went out of bounds at the Jaguars nine-yard line. The short punt brought down his average but a great punt to start. Then Berry punted a 55 yarder that the Jaguars returned ten yards to the 31 before Ola Adeniyi tackled the returner. James Pierre tackled the returner for no gain at the 20 on Berry’s third punt. The fourth resulted in a touchback. The Jaguars fair caught his final punt at the 15. Berry netted 37.2 yards a punt. Four of five Berry punts forced the Jaguars to start at or behind their own 20-yard line.
Logan Cooke punted six times averaging an impressive 54 yards per punt. Ray-Ray McCloud gained nothing on the first punt catching the ball at the five. Cooke’s next punt went 67 yards with McCloud retuning it five yards to the 24. McCloud signals for fair catch on the third at the 29. In the second half Cooke booms a 55 yarder for a touchback. The Jaguars feign putting offense on field for the next punt. Take a delay but Steelers defense stays on for any trickery. McCloud calls for fair catch when it looks like he has plenty of room but a prudent call. McCloud finally gets a 14-yard return on the final punt to the 26. Cooke nets 47.5 yards a punt but only two of six punts put Steelers at or behind the 20. Advantage Steelers.
FIELD GOALS AND POINTS AFTER TDS
Chris Boswell missed his first field goal attempt after a bad Canady snap. Broke his string of 25 straight field goals. Boswell did tie the game with a 45-yard kick and then in second half gave the Steelers a three-score lead with a 47 yarder. Boswell three for three on extra point attempts. Chase McLaughlin scored the Jaguars only points. Advantage Steelers.
DAVE BRYAN’S VICTORY PUNCH LIST REVIEW
Dave Bryan provided five keys for a Steelers victory. Here is how the Steelers performed them:
- Shut down James Robinson early and build lead by third quarter. Robinson gained 77 yard in the first three quarters and the Steelers only led by two touchdowns. Ten points in the fourth quarter is what finally shut him down. Mission failure.
- Ben completes high percentage of deep throws. Ben completed four of 11 deep passes for 96 yards for a TD and an INT. Two other attempts drew 21- and 29-yard penalties. Mission accomplished.
- Limit D.J. Chark production. Chark caught four of eight passes targeting him for 41 yards. Mission accomplished.
- Manage trick plays including passes from wildcat. Marcus Allen recovering the onside kick after Jaguars first score was big. Mission accomplished.
- Get early lead so Watt and Dupree can feast. Jaguars with early lead. Steelers took lead midway through second quarter but could not get comfortable three score lead until fourth quarter. Mission failure.
Three out of five not bad. Limiting Robinson to 78 yards an achievement.
KOZORA’S WINNERS and LOSERS
Alex’s winners and losers list came out within minutes of the final whistle. How does your view of the game compare to his analysis?
YOUR HOT TAKES DURING THE GAME
FIRST HALF READER COMMENTS
Steelers Depot readers commented 887 times on the game’s first half Live Update and Discussion Thread. Ross McCorkle kept us informed with live updates as we chirped our comments.
Mike Tomlin says there is room for improvement despite an undefeated record. Steelers fans always ready to contribute helpful advice:
DarthYinzer observed “They wouldn’t possibly expect me to go run, run, pass 57 times in a row!!!! – R Fichtner.”
Super Sean got nervous when Conner reversed the field. “Appreciate the effort, but Ben. PLEASE DO NOT BLOCK. Thank you”
Franchise Punter appreciates assistance from Steelers alumni. “I think Ike Taylor has been working with Bud on his ball skills. So, we got that going for us.”
Steelers Depot respondents well under the 1000 comment standard in the first half. Steelers led 17-3 after a slow start. The team projecting the slow start of Depot respondents.
SECOND HALF READER COMMENTS
Comments up to 939 in the 2nd half live discussion but still below the standard.
Joshwa asked “Guys is it just me, or does our offense seem to stay quiet for entire quarters and explode, then go quiet again?” Nelsonator762 responded, “It depends when Ben starts calling things or Randy keeps calling his signature ‘bland’ package.” DirtDawg1964 added, “It’s just you. I see a steady, piling up yards, marching down the field, offensive machine. But I also think there’s a squirrel in my yard who looks like Jerry Seinfeld and he’s inviting me over to his house for brandy and cigars.”
PaeperCup objected, “McFarland is completely and utterly misused.” The Steelers ran the young speedster up the middle three times for three yards. Maybe get him into some space?
As the Steelers game wrapped up, we had our eye on another game. Stone Age Tone advised, “Ravens heading to OT, hope they lose after a full 10 minutes, lol?” It did not take the full ten minutes, but the Crows lost. Now I’m hearing they have Covid issues which could delay Thursday’s game. Yoi!
Wreckless reminded us all, “Edmunds was tired of hearing the bs it seems. Dude’s having a game man.” Indeed, enough of the Ike Taylor comparisons. They both play well in the secondary. Now we know one can catch the ball too.
I guess there was not enough to complain about in a decisive victory. Did not reach 1000 comments in either half. Nice when we can sit back and enjoy a game for an extended period. Here we go.
Ben looks sharp passing the ball quickly. It is nice to see him spreading the ball around. The running game improved with Conner avoiding a couple losses through determination. He averaged over 6.8 yards a carry for 89 yards. Steelers used play action more than normal. It works if the run game functioning. This team is hungry, Ben’s block attempt may have looked feeble, but it demonstrates he’s in it to win it. He tried to make a tackle after his interception. I know it makes every Steeler fan cringe when he does those things but the message to the rest of the team is unmistakable. Don’t take a play off. Zach Gentry may have been the only significant injury of the game for the Steelers. Time for Vance McDonald to return.
The defense dominated a weak team. It is still important to perform to expectations. The pass rush is fearsome. The secondary covered well overall. Terrell Edmunds got a monkey off his back with two interceptions. Minkah ended another opponent scoring opportunity in the red zone with a takeaway. Joe Haden going down was scary. Bud Dupree, Cam Sutton, and Steve Nelson just missed interception opportunities. As the game wore on, Luton was on the run, hurrying his passes. Solid defensive effort.
Special teams played well in all phases. Marcus Allen recovering the onside attempt key to start of game. Prevented Jaguars from adding to their early lead. Boswell missed one field goal attempt but nailed two others. The Jaguars neutralized much of McCloud’s return game but two of his returns resulted in the offense starting in front of the 20 instead of behind it.
I pick two heroes this week. On offense it is Diontae Johnson. His second 100 yard receiving game in a row. His catch at the one-yard line showed great concentration. Catching 12 of 16 targets for 111 yards is a strong outing.
On defense, I pick Terrell Edmunds. His first interception set up the Steelers to expand their lead right at the end of the first half. The second interception iced the game after the Steelers exploited the takeaway to go up 27-3 late in the game. He added four tackles.
This is no fair-weather fan. He is waiting for a feast on some bird Thanksgiving Day:
Latest word is that NFL still plans to go ahead with Thursday Night’s game versus the Baltimore Ravens. The Crows have another Covid outbreak so stay tuned. Huge game. A Steelers win eliminates Baltimore from winning the AFC North though Cleveland still lurks in the shadows. This is the time of year when roster attrition becomes vitally important. No depth means a team fades as the season goes on. Short week means players will be playing with bumps and bruises. How will JuJu be after stepping on official’s flag? How about Haden? Can McDonald ready himself to play after a long time off? We’re going to find out soon enough. Here we go.
YOUR MUSIC SELECTION
I always like to offer a music selection. Steelers got to run on for a long time. Eventually they may get caught in a loss but hope it is in the regular not the postseason. Here is Run on For a Long Time by Bill Landford and the Lanfordaires.