The Steelers visit the Jaguars this Sunday in a revenge matchup against the team who knocked them out of the playoffs last season and destroyed them in the regular season a few months before that. This go around, it’s the Steelers who will get the win.
The Jaguars are 3-6 through nine games and another loss would all but end their season; something I’m certain the Steelers would love to do.
Here are my keys to victory.
Run the Football
Jacksonville has the number 2 rated defense overall, yet they are ranked 17th against the run. Taking advantage of that by implementing a healthy dose of James Conner will be a huge way to lead the black and gold to victory. Conner has been on fire during this five-game winning streak and if he can keep that momentum going this week, the Steelers can use the run to open up the pass. Once that happens, Ben Roethlisberger can begin to work his magic and make the Jaguars pay.
One of the reasons the Steelers lost to the Jags twice last year was they turned the ball over far too much and didn’t really get any in return. This go around, it’s the Steelers who need to create turnovers. Blake Bortles is a turnover machine. If TJ Watt, Bud Dupree and Cam Heyward can rush him and force him into the bad decisions he’s prone to make, the Steelers will put this game away early.
Protect Big Ben
The Jaguars do feature a pretty healthy pass rush, led by Calais Campbell. The offensive line will need to protect Ben, as they have all season, specifically during this win streak. If Ben is given his time, he’ll make the Jags secondary pay. If the Jags get into the backfield, they can make it a much longer day than anyone rooting for the black and gold would like to see.
Avoid Negative Plays
It’s so obvious yet there have been times where it just didn’t happen, especially vs. Jacksonville. The Steelers need to avoid dumb penalties, don’t allow splash plays (remember Bortles lit them up in the playoffs?) and make sure they stop Leonard Fournette. Fournette is back from injury now and he’s proven to beat the Steelers in the past. The front seven need to do their job to stop him and force Bortles to make a play.
I expect the Steelers to handle their business on Sunday Night and come out with a 33-13 victory. I don’t think the Jags are very good this year and the Steelers have been rolling lately. That momentum will continue and we will be talking about a six-game winning streak after the final second ticks off that clock.