Anticipation mounts as Jaguars prepare for Steelers | Steel City Underground

Steel City Underground

Pittsburgh Steelers coin toss against Jacksonville

The talk all week has been about the second act of a two-part series between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars at Heinz Field. Steelers fans still haven't forgotten the rare meltdown their team had against a Jaguars team many viewed as dangerous as a fluffy, newborn kitten. Over the season, that cat grew claws and sharpened its fangs on unexpecting NFL opponents. As the Jaguars prepare to face the Steelers once again - this time for the right to move on in the playoffs - the anticipation is mounting.

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Jaguars short-handed on defense at bad time

As of practice on Wednesday, Jacksonville had three linebackers that were limited or unable to participate. Paul Posluszny was forced out of the game against the Buffalo Bills due to an abdominal injury and did not practice. Outside linebacker Telvin Smith is nursing an ankle injury and was also inactive.

Rookie linebacker Blair Brown, expected to take first-team snaps in Posluszny's spot after replacing him during the game against the Bills was forced to utilize crutches, his left foot in a walking boot, following practice. Brown told Jacksonville media that the injury occurred while he was attempting to get past another player on a punt return/coverage play and said he "just landed on it wrong."

Linebacker Donald Payne has been dealing with a quadriceps injury. That leaves just strongside linebackers Myles Jack and Lerentee McCray as the only guys in that core group of defenders who aren't attempting to get to 100 percent before they face Pittsburgh.

When asked about the situation, Brown said he was disappointed. "I had a great chance at doing some big things this game," Brown said. "My production level, I feel like, has gone up."

Being short-handed at the linebacker position is less than ideal at any time in an NFL season, but when facing Steelers running backs Le'Veon Bell and Stevan Ridley the tension has to be higher regardless of head coach Doug Marrone telling the media that his players are "a loose team..." When asked about Bell specifically, Marrone said, "He'll wait for the holes to open. (Bell) has a really good understanding of the blocking scheme. He's very natural... He's very difficult to tackle one-on-one, so you have to get multiple people involved."

Cornerback Aaron Colvin missed practice with an illness, but Jalen Ramsey (Achilles) and nose tackle Abry Jones (ankle) returned in a limited capacity. It's that time of the season when teams often look at their depth chart to help them carry the day. The Jaguars may do just that come game-time.

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Jaguars talking Steelers

Marrone expects things to be much different when they enter Heinz Field for the second time this season. "It's a playoff environment," Marrone insisted, explaining that it does not matter what happened earlier in the season when they handed Pittsburgh a loss. "It will be different. We'll just have to go out there and focus on our team and what we have to do."

Telvin Smith didn't seem concerned about his physical condition after practice, telling the media that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's comments about wanting to face Jacksonville showed the veteran passer was "definitely right now feeling that he's got to prove something," after the poor performance he offered in October. "I'm telling you," Smith said. "We do, too." Smith also told reporters that he feels Jacksonville's defense has the luxury of locking down both sides of the field with Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. "We can eliminate two and say, 'Take your best shot.' That's why I feel we're so confident because we say, 'Every position, take your shot.'"

Safety Barry Church anticipates a potential one-on-one battle between Ramsey and Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. "It's going to be unbelievable," Church said from his locker on Wednesday. "I'm just glad I'm on the field for it...We'll see who gets the better of the two. My money's on Jalen."

They both like to talk a lot of trash and they're going to be matched up with each other the whole game, so it's going to be a great one - Safety B. Church on Ramsey and Brown.

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