We've been itching for some real Steelers football for several weeks now. In Week 16, during Christmas Day, the Steelers pummeled the Houston Texans, en route to starting to rest their starters not only that evening but through Week 17.
Sorry Landry Jones and Stevan Ridley, as much as I love yinz, you are imposters compared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell: components of the "real" Steelers football we've nearly waited three weeks to get to.
Most of football betting sites have the Steelers as a 7-point favorite. But will they be able to avenge their earlier loss against Jacksonville?
Last weekend's bye made the wait worse. As fans, we were subjected to subpar football as we anxiously waited for someone to win between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. When the latter emerged victoriously, we learned there would be a rematch of Week 5's blunder where the Steelers dropped an awful game to the Jags.
With revenge on the Steelers minds, here are five players to watch in Sunday's encounter.
Big Ben has made it clear he wants payback.
And rightfully so.
The Steelers quarterback had one of, if not his worst showing of his entire career in a five-interception game against Jacksonville in Week 5.
That game, played in front of the Heinz Field faithful, was an offensive struggle through three quarters, as Pittsburgh clung to a 9-7 lead, then blew it as Roethlisberger sent back-to-back passes to the opposition for pick sixes.
If there's anyone to watch in this game, it will be Big Ben, who wants a big game to avenge his earlier shortcomings.
Brown is one to watch since he hasn't been on the field since Week 15's game against the New England Patriots. With plenty of time to nurse his calf injury, the Steelers star receiver returned to practice this week and appears to be good-to-go for Sunday's game.
That could spell trouble for even a solid defense such as Jacksonville's, as it not only adds another weapon for the Steelers offense, but adds THE weapon for them, as Brown still led the NFL in receiving yards despite missing two full games and a good portion of the one against the Patriots.
Fournette, a rookie running back, ran for 1,040 yards this season.
But that's not why he's on this list.
181 yards against the Steelers in that earlier game is the reason that Fournette is one to watch. Can he replicate his success from that game, including a 90-yard touchdown run, which was the longest-ever at Heinz Field?
Eight passes. 95 yards. 48.2 QB rating.
That was the Jacksonville quarterback's performance the last time he came to Pittsburgh... and it wasn't much prettier when he played last week's Wild Card game in the friendlier confines of EverBank Field in a win over the Bills, where Bortles completed 12 passes for 87 yards.
He also put together a 15 completion, 158-yard, two-interception flub in his previous game, a Week 17 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Needless to say, the Jaguars quarterback has been poor all season, with a few peaks and many valleys. Some are concerned about his ability to scramble, which he successfully did against Buffalo, to the detriment of actually running for one yard more than he threw for.
However, that isn't the norm for Bortles, who only ran for more than 50 yards on one other occasion all season. Still, I can envision a game plan where the Steelers force Bortles to beat them, thus making him another player to keep your eyes on.
Heyward missed the playoffs last year, becoming a bystander after being placed on injured reserve midway through the regular season.
The team's leader in sacks this season, you better believe he's someone to keep an eye on. Expect a hungry Heyward and a Steelers defense that has a much different look this postseason.