Divisional Round Tale Of The Tape: Jacksonville Jaguars At Pittsburgh Steelers
- QuarterbackMuch has been made of Jacksonville’s 30-9 victory at Pittsburgh early in the season, and while it should give the Jaguars some confidence, it may not have much to do with this game. If Jacksonville is going to come up with the road win, erratic quarterback Blake Bortles is going to have to avoid turnovers and make a couple of big plays. That may be too much to ask of the Jacksonville quarterback.Ben Roethlisberger should have plenty of inspiration as he takes the field in this game. Not only does he want to lead his team to the AFC title game, he wants to redeem himself against Jacksonville. Roethlisberger threw five interceptions against the Jaguars in the regular season, and he is clearly a much better quarterback than that.
- OffenseThe Jaguars must be able to run the ball if they are going to come up with a second win in Pittsburgh, and while Leonard Fournette had a productive rookie year with 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns, the Steelers will set their defense to stop him. Keelan Cole and Marqise Lee are decent receivers who will have to be at their best to cause problems for the Steelers.The Steelers are hoping to have Antonio Brown back for this game and ready to make a huge impact. Brown injured his calf in Week 15, and he has not played since, but he is nearly impossible to stop when he is healthy. Running back Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in the game, and rookie wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster is a big playmaker.
- DefenseThe Jaguars shut down a limited Buffalo offense in the wild-card game, and that unit was also one of the best in the regular season. However, they will get tested severely by the Steelers’ outstanding skill-position players. The Jaguars depend on the effectiveness of defensive ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, who combined for 26.5 sacks. CB Jalen Ramsey will try to contain Brown.The Steelers are known for their outstanding offensive players, but the defense has had a solid year and is capable of dominating against Bortles. The Steelers ranked fifth in yards allowed, and they have a game-changing pass rusher in Cameron Heyward (12.0 sacks). Strong safety Sean Davis leads the team with 92 tackles and has three interceptions and 11 passes defensed.
- Special TeamsThe Jaguars will fight hard on special teams, but this unit has not been very effective throughout most of the season. Jaydon Mickens (hip) is a decent return man who has a punt return for a score, while Josh Lambo has made 19-of-20 FG attemptsThe Steelers are strong on special teams, and the powerful Smith-Schuster has the ability to break a big play as a kickoff returner that could turn the game around. Chris Boswell has made 35-of-38 FG attempts, and has excelled in clutch situations.
The Steelers may be the most talented team in the league. They are playing at home for the right to play in the AFC title game with revenge in mind. They should be able to win decisively.