NFL

AFC Divisional Playoffs- Pittsburgh Steelers vs Jacksonville Jaguars Preview

Welcome to the AFC Divisional Playoffs- Pittsburgh Steelers vs Jacksonville Jaguars Preview! This is your one stop shop for everything you need to know about the Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a Game Preview, the Steeler’s Keys to Victory, Score Prediction, a detailed breakdown of each team, Fantasy Football Impact, Game Information, Individual Stats, Team Stats, the latest Injury Report, down to the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!


Steelers Look to Avenge Earlier Loss vs the Jaguars En Route to Super Bowl LII Run

Earlier this season, the Jacksonville Jaguars walked into Heinz Field and tattooed the Steelers 30-9. Leonard Fournette ran for 181 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns.

The Steelers haven’t forgotten.

“Everybody is going to do their talking on Sunday,” DE Stephon Tuitt said. “It’s going to be the type of game that we will see which side has the better running attack. The person that came at us, came into our stadium and ran for 200 yards against us the last time, of course we’re going to get prepared for him this time.”

Giving up that many yards to an opposing running back does not sit well with this proud defense.

“We all failed in certain areas that day against the run,” defensive back Mike Hilton said. “We all missed assignments, missed some tackles and didn’t really play Steelers football on defense. What we need to do this time is win on early downs and put them in bad situations. We just have to slow down, not overrun gaps and tackle a lot better than we did against Fournette. We have to get a lot of hits on him. He isn’t going to go down with just an arm tackle.”

Those numbers given up that day, however, aren’t as bad as they seemed.

90 of those yards gained by Fournette came on one run with 1:47 left to play. Without that play, the Steeler defense actually stood their ground well that day. That run boosted the Jaguars total yards from 223 to 313, still behind the 371 yards the Steelers’ offense had, which turned the ball over five times that day, all interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger.

Those interceptions marred the stats of what was a great season by Roethlisberger, and he was eager to prove that game was a fluke, even before the playoffs began…

“I’ll give you guys one guess who you think I want to play,” Roethlisberger said during his weekly appearance on his Radio Show a few days after the Regular Season concluded.

“Obviously any game that we’re going to play — since it’s the postseason — is going to be a difficult opponent, but I think just for me personally I’d love to just prove that five interceptions wasn’t me in that game,” Roethlisberger said.

A few of the Jaguars defense took note of Big Ben’s comments and spoke up after their win vs the Bills in the AFC Wildcard Game.

“Be careful what you wish for,” said cornerback A.J. Bouye. “This is what he wanted, so this is what he is going to get.”

It’s not that Roethlisberger doesn’t respect Jacksonville’s defense, but five turnovers are five turnovers, and that will drive any quarterback worth his weigh in gold to avenge such a day.

“There’s not one thing, pass rush, linebackers, secondary,” Roethlisberger said. “Their stats, when you look at what they’ve put on paper, put on tape this year, I think that speaks for itself.”

Antonio Brown, Big Ben’s favorite target, is back after injuring his calf vs New England a few weeks ago. He will be the focal point for the Jaguar’s secondary to contain.

“He’s an elite player,” corner Jalen Ramsey said. “Highly regarded by everybody, honestly, around the nation or maybe internationally. So, yeah, it’s going to be a challenge. We’re going to have to be on our P’s and Q’s and try to execute the game plan as best we can.”

Brown caught 10 passes for 157 yards in the first meeting against Jacksonville.

Regardless of what happened last time, both teams are different than what each other had seen in Week 5.

“We’ve evolved since then,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “They have evolved a lot since then. (The first game) is a good physical reference in terms of the matchups. … I am sure that they are as different as we are since the last time we’ve seen them.”

 

Steelers Keys To Victory

Offense

  • Control the Ball! The best weapon in the playoffs is ball control combined with successful drives that end in points.
  • Let Ben Be Ben! Le’Veon Bell needs utilized to the best of his abilities, but don’t hamper Ben…set him loose upon the Jaguars and let him lead the Steelers to the AFC Championship.
  • No Turnovers! The Jaguars benefited greatly last time from five Roethlisberger interceptions. Secure the ball!

Defense

  • Bury Bortles! Put this guy on his back… pressure him into bad throws and let the secondary play takeaway.
  • Focus on Fournette! If you take away the Jags running game and force Bortles to beat you through the air, you can’t help but like your chances to limit the Jacksonville offense.

Prediction

If you are a member of Steeler Nation and find yourself pumped up about this week’s AFC Divisional Playoff game vs the Jacksonville Jaguars, you have nothing on corner Joe Haden.

“I am really excited,” said Haden. “The only thing is I don’t want to get myself too hyped. I am telling myself, it’s still a football game. Joe you have to go out and do what you have been doing and you are going to be fine. I am really excited, I am doing everything I normally do, playing in the scheme.”

After being imprisoned in Cleveland for his entire career, Haden will lacing up his cleats to come out of the Heinz Field tunnel for the playoffs in his first season as a Steeler.

“This is exactly what I signed here for,” said Haden. “I knew what they had here. I have played against them for seven years and they have been going to the playoffs every year. I knew if I could get here and be a part of it, it would be special. It’s definitely refreshing because it’s something I never had before. It’s something new. I have never been a part of this.”

The Pittsburgh crowd will be on their feet, Terrible Towels waving, a deafening roar will be heard well outside the stadium as the Steelers take the field at 12:55 p.m. Sunday, and Haden can hardly contain himself.

“I can’t wait,” said Haden. “It’s going to be crazy. I am excited to get some of that juice.”

It’s that energy that you feel inside Heinz Field during a playoff game that energizes the Steelers. Both the team and it’s fans feed off of each other.

The Steelers are eager to show that an earlier season loss to Jacksonville was a fluke, and come kickoff at 1:05 p.m., Heinz Field will be rocking.

“Steelers Nation all the way turned up…electric,” said Marcus Gilbert. “I think our fans are going to be going nuts, especially since we didn’t give them what they wanted in the first game, in the first go-around. I bet they come prepared like I know they will.”

After all the hype dies down and we settle into a football game, it will be up to the Steelers to deliver and live up to their abilities.

The biggest key to the Steelers moving on to the AFC Championship game will be stopping Leonard Fournette and the Jaguar rushing attack.

“You would hope that you would be able to contain them a little bit because that’s what they do,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. “When you play different teams, you try to take away what they do best. We’ll do the same with this team, we’ll try to take away what they do best and make them beat us left-handed, if we can. That’s what we’ve always tried to do.”

If the Steelers contain Fournette and force Blake Bortles to put the team on his back, the Steelers will be in good shape to advance to the next round. Securing the ball is a must.

“That’s what we got to do,” safety Sean Davis said. “Coach has been telling us, we have to take care of the ball and take the ball on defense. It’s a game of turnovers, whoever makes fewer mistakes — and we have to stop the run. If we stop the run, we’ll be fine.”

After watching Bortles struggle against the Buffalo Bills defense, the defense should be up to the task this Sunday.

This game falls on the shoulders of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown. This will be the trio of stars that need to lead by example and find the soft spots in what is an excellent defense by Jacksonville. Bell should be utilized in every fashion possible, especially lined up outside in the passing game.

Jacksonville plays aggressive, so misdirection and counter plays should be in play this week. Don’t be surprised to see a few runs by Martavis Bryant or JuJu Smith-Schuster on a Jet Sweep to keep the Jags defense at bay.

Big Ben will need to find his rhythm and take a few chances deep. Don’t be surprised if Roethlisberger has one of his best games of the year.

“We know this is single elimination,” said Haden. “You have to put all of your marbles out there. We have to understand every play, everything matters. Making tackles, communication, stopping the run. There are a lot of things. We have to be on our Ps and Qs. Big plays here are a lot different than the regular season.”

Steelers 27 Jaguars 13


Game Information

AFC Divisional Playoff

Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6)

Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Kickoff: Sunday, January 14th, 1:05 p.m.

Game Tickets Link

TV: CBS (KDKA-TV) | Announcers:  Ian Eagle (play-by-play) Dan Fouts (analyst) | Evan Washburn (sideline)

Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM/970 WBGG-AM | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Tunch Ilkin (analyst) | Craig Wolfley (sideline)

National Radio: Westwood One  | Announcers: Tom McCarthy (play-by-play) Ross Tucker (analyst) | Steve Tasker (sideline)

Weather at Kickoff: Partly Cloudy and 14 degrees.

Vegas Line: Steelers -7


Steelers-Jaguars History

  • Series History: Series began in 1995.
  • The Steelers are 11-12 in the overall Regular Season series against the Jaguars.
  • Steelers are 6-5 playing at Home vs the Jaguars.
  • Streak: Jaguars won previous meeting.
  • Last Regular Season Meeting: October 8th, 2017, in Pittsburgh- Jacksonville 30 Steelers 9
  • Steelers are 0-1 in the Post-Season vs the Jaguars.
  • Last Post-Season Meeting: Jan. 5, 2008 in Pittsburgh- Jacksonville 31 Pittsburgh 29 (AFC Wild Card)

 

Game Notes

  • Jaguars S Barry Church is from Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • Jaguars LB Paul Posluszny is from Aliquippa, Pa., and played collegiately at Penn State.
  • Ben Roethlisberger would tie Terry Bradshaw (14) for the most wins by a quarterback in Steelers postseason history with a win, and match Bradshaw, John Elway and Peyton Manning
    for the third-most playoff wins in NFL history by a starting quarterback.
  • Roethlisberger is 213 passing yards from reaching 5,000 in his postseason career and becoming the fifth quarterback in NFL postseason history to record 5,000 or more passing yards, joining Tom Brady (9,094), Peyton Manning (7,339), Brett Favre (5,855) and Joe Montana (5,772) and is 13-7 all-time (.650) in the postseason as a starter
  • Antonio Brown is four receptions from tying Lynn Swann (48) for the fifth-most in Steelers playoff history, five from matching Heath Miller (49) for the fourth-most and seven from tying
    Franco Harris (51) for the third-most.
  • Le’Veon Bell will join Franco Harris (1,556), Jerome Bettis (674), Rocky Bleier (480) and Willie Parker (471) as the only players in Steelers’ postseason history with at least 400 rushing yards with 43 on Sunday.
  • Chris Boswell is one field goal from tying Jeff Reed (16) for the franchise postseason record and two field goals from establishing a new team playoff mark.
  • Cam Heyward will record the second sack of his NFL postseason career with his next quarterback takedown.

A look at the Pittsburgh Steelers!

  • Overall Record: 13-3
  • Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (11th Season with Steelers)
  • Overall Regular Season Record: 115-60 (.657)
  • Playoff Record: 8-6 (Qualified for playoffs 8 times)
  • 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers Roster
  • Last Game: Steelers 28 Browns 24

 

Scouting the Steelers 

Quarterback

Ben Roethlisberger leads an offense that has the ability to beat you via the ground or the air. Still elusive in the pocket and great at extending plays, Roethlisberger likes to test secondaries with at least 3-4 deep passes a game. Landry Jones is the back-up.

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell is one of the best all-around backs in the NFL, if not thee best. Bell can kill you on the ground with his speed and elusiveness. He is patient, often delaying a second to find the hole to burst through. Bell is also dangerous out of the backfield as a pass catcher. James Conner was the back-up but is out after injuring his MCL. Fitzgerald Toussaint and Stevan Ridley will handle the back-up duties.

Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the game. You can count on five catches for at least 50 yards every week at a minimum. This wideout group is extremely deep and talented. Martavis Bryant is a deep threat on every play with his size and speed. Eli Rogers is excellent from the slot. Justin Hunter has superior speed and is also a deep threat. Rookie Juju Smith-Schuster has already established himself as an elite option in his first season and is Roethlisberger’s 2nd favorite target. Darrius Heyward-Bey is mainly used on special teams, but is a dependable player when called upon in the passing game.

Tight Ends

Jesse James is the starter and becoming one of Roethlisberger’s favorite targets around the endzone. Vance McDonald is a big target that can make splash plays for Roethlisberger across the middle and inside the redzone. Xavier Grimble is also a nice option for Ben inside the 10 yard line.

Defense

The Steelers defense has returned to form in 2017. The Unit finished with a team record 56 sacks this season.

On the 3-4 defensive line, it’s Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave, and Stephon Tuitt. Daniel McCullers will rotate with Hargrave. Should Tuitt or Heyward go down, Tyson Alualu or L.T. Walton would step in.

At linebacker, rookie TJ Watt starts at OLB, with Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams in the middle. Bud Dupree stands opposite of Watt. Both can get at the quarterback and disrupt the opposing team’s passing game. Shazier was a stud in the middle and his speed makes him a nightmare for any QB who makes a mistake across the middle. With Shazier out for the season, Arthur Moats, Tyler Matakevich and Sean Spence will make the best of a bad situation. Anthony Chickillo will also step in for injuries to Watt or Dupree on the outside.

The secondary has been revamped with the addition of Joe Haden at corner. He won’t have to guard the opposing team’s #1 wide receiver on every down, as that job falls to Artie Burns. Coty Sensabaugh is the back-up corner. Mike Mitchell lines up at free safety, with J.J. Wilcox or Robert Golden backing him up if injured. Sean Davis is getting better by the game at strong safety. Mike Hilton and Will Gay will be in at slot corner positions when called upon.

Stats

Quarterback

  • Ben Roethlisberger (4,251 yards passing | 28 TD passes | 14 interceptions | 21 sacks | 47 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)

Running Backs

  • Le’Veon Bell (1,291 yards rushing | 9 rushing TD’s | 85 receptions | 655 yards receiving | 2 receiving TD’s)
  • James Conner (144 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)*
  • Stevan Ridley (108 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Fitzgerald Toussaint (25 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 2 receptions | 9 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Roosevelt Nix (3 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 2 receptions | 6 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

  • Antonio Brown (101 receptions | 1,533 receiving yards | 9 receiving TD’s)
  • Juju Smith-Schuster (58 receptions | 917 receiving yards | 7 receiving TD’s)
  • Martavis Bryant (50 receptions | 603 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
  • Eli Rogers (18 receptions | 149 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
  • Justin Hunter (4 receptions | 23 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
  • Darrius Heyward-Bey (2 receptions | 47 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

Tight Ends

  • Jesse James (43 receptions | 172 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
  • Vance McDonald (14 receptions | 188 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
  • Xavier Grimble (4 receptions | 30 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)

Kicker

  • Chris Boswell (Extra Point: 37-39 | FG: 35-38 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 10-10 | 30-39: 12-14 | 40-49: 9-10 | 50+: 4-4 | Long: 53)

Steelers Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats

*Injured

 

A look at the Jacksonville Jaguars!

  • Overall Record: 11-6
  • Head Coach:  Doug Marrone (4th Season with Jaguars)
  • Overall Regular Season Record: 26-24 (.520) | 11-7 (.611) with Jaguars
  • Playoff Record: 1-0 (Qualified for playoffs 1 times)
  • 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars Roster
  • Last Week: AFC Wildcard- Jaguars 10 Bills 3

 

Scouting the Jaguars

Quarterback

Blake Bortles isn’t going to win many games on his own. Prone to making mistakes when pressured. Is a threat with his legs, as evidenced with his 322 yards rushing.

Running Backs

Leonard Fournette has had an excellent rookie season. He is a strong runner with dual threat capabilities out of the backfield catching passes. Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon step in if Fornette’s injury woes continue.

Wide Receivers

The Jags have nice talent at wide-out when everyone is healthy. Marqise Lee is the top threat, but Keelan Cole, Allen Hurns, and rookie Dede Westbrook can all assume #1 duties if called upon. Question is, can Blake Bortles get them the ball?

Tight End

Marcedes Lewis is Bortles top target at tight end, and one of his favorites inside the Red Zone.

Defense

The Jaguars have an excellent pass defense to go along with a pass rush that brought opposing quarterbacks down 55 times, 2nd only to the Steelers. Jacksonville can be ran on as they ranked 21st in 2017-18, giving up and average of 116.3 yards a game on the ground.

 

Stats

Quarterback

  • Blake Bortles (3,687 yards passing | 21 TD passes | 13 interceptions | 24 sacks | 322 yards rushing | 2 TD’s)

Running Backs

  • Leonard Fournette (1,040 yards rushing | 9 rushing TD’s | 36 receptions | 302 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
  • Chris Ivory (382 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 21 receptions | 175 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
  • T.J. Yeldon (253 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 30 receptions | 224 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

  • Marqise Lee (56 receptions | 702 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)*
  • Keelan Cole (42 receptions | 748 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
  • Allen Hurns (39 receptions | 484 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
  • Dede Westbrook (27 receptions | 339 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)

Tight End

  • Marcedes Lewis (24 receptions | 318 receiving yards | 5 receiving TD’s)
  • James O’Shaughnessy (14 receptions | 149 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)

Kicking

  • Josh Lambo (Extra Point: 22-24 | FG: 19-20 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 2-2 | 30-39: 11-11 | 40-49: 4-5 | 50+: 2-2 | Long: 56)

Jaguars Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats


Steelers – Jaguars: Offense vs Defense Comparison 

  • Steelers Offense: Steelers average 387.6 YPG | Jaguars defense allows 286.1 YPG
  • Rushing: Steelers average 104.2 YPG | Jaguars defense allows 116.3 YPG
  • Passing: Steelers average 283.4 YPG | Jaguars defense allows 169.9 YPG
  • Scoring: Steelers average 25.4 PPG | Jaguars defense allows 16.8 PPG

 

  • Steelers Defense: Steelers allow 306.9 YPG | Jaguars offense averages 373.6 YPG
  • Rushing: Steelers allow 105.8 YPG | Jaguars offense averages 141.4 YPG
  • Passing: Steelers allow 201.1 YPG | Jaguars offense averages 232.3 YPG
  • Scoring: Steelers allow 19.3 PPG | Jaguars offense averages 26.1 PPG

Injury Report (1/12/2017)

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Out: 
  • Doubtful: 
  • Questionable: WR Antonio Brown (Calf / Illness)

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Out: 
  • Doubtful: 
  • Questionable: LB Blair Brown (Ankle), WR Jaydon Mickens (Hamstring)

NFL Playoff Bracket


Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Schedule

PRESEASON (3-1)

Friday, Aug. 11 @ New York Giants W, 20-12 (KDKA)

Sunday, Aug. 20 ATLANTA W, 17-13 (KDKA)

Saturday, Aug. 26 INDIANAPOLIS L, 19-15 (KDKA)

Thursday, Aug. 31 @ Carolina W, 17-14 (KDKA)

 

REGULAR SEASON (13-3)

Sunday, Sept. 10 @ Cleveland 1 p.m. (CBS), W– 21-18

Sunday, Sept. 17 MINNESOTA 1 p.m. (FOX), W– 26-9

Sunday, Sept. 24 @ Chicago 1 p.m. (CBS), L- 17-23

Sunday, Oct. 1 @ Baltimore 1 p.m. (CBS), W– 26-9

Sunday, Oct. 8 JACKSONVILLE 1 p.m. (CBS), L- 9-30

Sunday, Oct. 15 @ Kansas City 4:25 p.m. (CBS), W– 19-13

Sunday, Oct. 22 CINCINNATI 4:25 p.m. (CBS), W– 29-14

Sunday, Oct. 29 @ Detroit* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W– 20-15

Sunday, Nov. 5 BYE WEEK

Sunday, Nov. 12 @ Indianapolis* 1 p.m. (CBS), W– 20-17

Thursday, Nov. 16 TENNESSEE 8:25 p.m. (NBC/ NFL Network/Amazon), W– 40-17

Sunday, Nov. 26 GREEN BAY* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W– 31-28

Monday, Dec. 4 @ Cincinnati 8:30 p.m. (ESPN), W– 23-20

Sunday, Dec. 10 BALTIMORE* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W– 39-38

Sunday, Dec. 17 NEW ENGLAND* 4:25 p.m. (CBS), L- 24-27

Monday, Dec. 25 @ Houston 4:30 p.m. (NBC/ NFL Network/Amazon), W– 34-6

Sunday, Dec. 31 CLEVELAND* 1 p.m. (CBS), W– 28-24

* – Times may change due to flexible scheduling

 

POSTSEASON

Sat.-Sun., Jan. 6-7 Wild Card Weekend- FIRST ROUND BYE

Sunday, Jan.14 Divisional Playoff: JACKSONVILLE 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

Sunday, Jan. 21 AFC Championship:

Sunday, Jan. 28 Pro Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)

Sunday, Feb. 4 Super Bowl LII (Minneapolis, Minn.)

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Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

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As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides top notch opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania, including WPIAL Football.

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