After being topsy-turvy the first four weeks, the Jacksonville Jaguars travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers. These two will square off for the first time since 2014, with kickoff coming at 1:00 EST this Sunday from Heinz Field. The game will be televised on CBS in local markets, and on the NFL Sunday Ticket package.
It’s hard knowing which Jaguars team will show up Sunday. The one that annihilated Houston and Baltimore, or the one that lost to the lowly Jets and were picked apart by Tennessee.
RB Leonard Fournette has neither been electric or disappointing in his first four games. He’s become a great presence near the goal line and has a 100-yard game under his belt, but also has run for only 3.5 YPC. They’ll need more support from him to help the on-and-off passing game.
QB Blake Bortles had shown signs of turning the corner after the Baltimore game, but went back to being mediocre the very next week.
Pittsburgh’s quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, hasn’t been as heavily relied on as in the past. But he’s shown he can still sling it with the best of them, and is still a franchise QB who can take the Steelers a long way. It helps having All-Pro Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant in the passing game, and the ability to control the game with one of the NFL’s best lines and running backs.
The Steelers defense has improved and gotten healthier too, and that will be put to the test Sunday. The
Steelers are 8-point favorites at home.
Even against Minnesota in their second game, it didn’t seem Pittsburgh was entirely itself, despite winning 26-9. But last Sunday’s game saw the Steelers return to their identity. The Jaguars may’ve returned to theirs last weekend too. Unfortunately, that’s the identity of a middling organization.
Pittsburgh RB Le’Veon Bell was relied on for 35 carries, and he didn’t disappoint with 144 yards and two touchdowns. Don’t expect that load to be lightened too much. Jacksonville is way more susceptible to the run, having given up 256 yards against the Jets last week. They’re allowing 5.7 YPC, a horrible mark for an NFL defense.
This will allow coach Mike Tomlin to bait the Jaguars the same way he does many other teams. By establishing the run game early, the defense will have to commit to many bodies in the box to combat it. Then the Steelers can utilize playmakers like Brown and Bryant on the perimeter to take the top off the defense.
The Jaguars passing game is still a work in progress, with Bortles still a very unsteady NFL starter. Take away the Baltimore game, and he doesn’t look as if he’s made much improvement at all since his rookie year. Jacksonville will have to ride the back of Fournette, who will be playing a front seven that’s now completely healthy.
In the end, the offensive line of the Steelers will control this game against Jacksonville’s front. The Jags have yet to consistently stop the run, and Bell is not the guy to gain such steadiness against. Pittsburgh will win by double-digits just as they did in their last game and last two home games. Expect something in the neighborhood of 27-14.