Photo - Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
This was one the Steelers should have lost and, full disclosure, would have lost in years past.
The Tomlin Steelers are almost famous for playing down to opponents and losing games to teams with poor records to stain an otherwise clean run of games. Sunday’s game in Jacksonville was fitting the script perfectly – winners of four consecutive, sole possession of first place in the AFC North and a chance to widen the gap between themselves and the loser of the Baltimore/Cincinnati game, the Steelers seemed poised for one of their mid-season debacles that makes Steelers Nation question the realistic expectations of the team.
The script continued to follow suit – the Jaguars dominating most of the first three quarters and building a 16-0 lead. Looked like certain doom for the Steelers – the Jaguars just have their number.
Then, something out of character happened. The Steelers did not come up short. Unlike teams of the past that have stumbled over and over in games exactly like Sunday’s, the Steelers were able to come storming back on the strength of two Ben Roethlisberger touchdown passes and a gutsy dive by Big Ben from the Jacksonville 1-yard-line with 5 seconds left in regulation.
The reason the Steelers were able to chip away and get back into a football game that they should have lost? The maligned defense and the positively inept Jacksonville passing game.
Blake Bortles is ineffective at best – 10/19/104/0/0 – the second zero, no interceptions, is okay, but the first zero, touchdowns, is a huge factor. Jacksonville could have thrown a spear through the Steelers’ collective heart with touchdowns instead of field goals on any of their first three scoring drives, but Jacksonville, without the threat of a passing offense, could not finish drives with touchdowns.
The Steelers’ defense – criticized in many circles (including mine) – was gashed by Jacksonville’s running game in the first half, but adjusted quite well in the second half (by putting nine in the box) and forced Jacksonville to throw the ball.
Six Steelers’ sacks and several Bortles’ misfires later, and the door was opened for Roethlisberger and company to push through and win a game that looked every bit like a completely nauseating loss.
Kudos to the D for clamping down, and thank you to Jacksonville for sticking with Blake Bortles.
- Can the, “Sit Ben and play Josh Dobbs” contingent please sit down? Ben is allowed to have a bad game, a bad half, a bad quarter, a bad series. The other team is trying to win, too. Tom Brady looked real good against Tennessee two Sundays ago, right? Maybe the Patriots should bench him.
- Pitt didn’t Pitt! The classic Pitt move would have been to either lose its last two ACC Coastal games and blow their shot at playing Clemson for the conference championship, or to back their way into the Dec. 1 matchup in Charlotte with a Virginia loss. Instead, the Panthers took care of their own business by beating Wake Forest last Saturday clinching the Coastal and punching their ticket to Charlotte. Admittedly, the Coastal, and the ACC in general is pretty weak, and Pitt’s latest recruiting class is not highly touted, but the program should be proud of its in-season improvement and for making more than a few fans notice.
- Some told me to calm down – that last week was too early to worry about the Pens. How about now? The Hagelin for Pearson trade has not even registered on the Richter scale, and the Pens’ D and goaltending looks like it has no interest in preventing goals. The Pens have the fewest points in the Eastern Conference and couldn’t score 5-on-5 if their opponents blindfolded themselves. No reason to panic at all, nope, the Pens will just push some imaginary button and suddenly transform into a team that can move people from in front of its own net, move the puck up ice and score with some regularity. Or not.