This is the Steel City Blitz Three-Point Stance. Your ultimate quick reference guide to the AFC Divisional Playoff between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers. Everything you need is right here! As always, this is presented by ‘Nail the Number!’
What: AFC Divisional Playoff: Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
When: 105pm Eastern on Sunday, January 14th, 2018
Weather: Partly Sunny and 17 degrees. Winds expected to be light.
Line: Steelers -7
Last Week: The Jaguars defeated Buffalo 10-3 in the AFC Wild-Card Game while the Steelers were enjoying their bye week.
TV: CBS Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts and Evan Washburn on the sidelines.
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio/WDVE Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley on the sidelines.
Head Official: Brad Allen
Key Injuries: JAX: OUT: None QUEST: LB Blair Brown (Ankle), WR Jaydon Mickens (Hamstring) PIT: OUT: None QUEST: Antonio Brown (calf) Game-Time Decisions will be updated when available.
Final 2017 NFL Ranks:
Total Offense: PIT 3rd JAX. 6th Passing Offense: PIT 3rd JAX 17th Rushing Offense: PIT 20th JAX 1st
Total Defense: PIT 5th , JAX 2nd Passing Defense: PIT 5th JAX 1st Rushing Defense: PIT 10th JAX 21st
What You Need to Know: The two teams have only met once in the AFC Playoffs. Jacksonville defeated the Steelers in Pittsburgh 31-29 in 2008… The Steelers have met a regular season opponent at home in the postseason 17 times. Only once has the team defeated them and that was the Jags in 2008… Ben Roethlisberger is 5-1 all-time in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs… Pittsburgh is 8-4 all-time at Heinz Field in the postseason… In temperatures under 25 degrees, the Steelers are 6-1 at Heinz Field while Jacksonville is 1-7 all-time.
What’s at Stake: A trip to the AFC Championship. Should New England win, the winner here advances to play the Pats in Foxboro. Should New England lose, the winner here would host the Tennessee Titans.
All-Time Series: Jaguars lead 12-11 in the regular season. Jacksonville holds a 1-0 advantage in the postseason.
Series Highs: PASSING: Steelers Kordell Stewart 317 yards Oct 26th, 1997, Jaguars Mark Brunell 308 yards Dec 2nd, 1999… RUSHING: Steelers Rashard Mendenhall 146 yards Oct 10th, 2011, Jaguars Fred Taylor 234 yards Nov 19th, 2000… RECEIVING: Steelers Yancey Thigpen 196 yards Oct 26th, 1997, Jaguars Jimmy Smith 164 yards Sep 22nd, 1997
Last Meeting: In Pittsburgh. Jaguars 30 Steelers 9 October 8th, 2017
Three Things We Need to See for a Steelers’ Victory:
Le’Veon Bell is the Key. We covered this on the SCB Podcast last night but in the third quarter of the first matchup the Steelers led 9-7 and Bell was averaging over four yards per carry. A couple of ‘pick-sixes’ later and he would hardly touch the ball in the run game again. While circumstances certainly dictated that alteration, Bell is the key in both the running and passing game. The Jaguars rank 21st in the NFL against the run and that needs to be exposed. The Jags are very good defending passes downfield so that means opportunities for Bell underneath in the passing game. Don’t be surprised if Bell has 30 touches or more in this one.
Put it in the Hands of Bortles. In the week five game, Leonard Fournette was having a very workman-like game averaging barely over three yards a crack before he ripped off that 90-yard run to seal the game. There is no question the Steelers must limit the run and force Blake Bortles to beat them in the air. Last week he beat the Bills with his feet running for over 80 yards and that has to be a concern too because of what Deshone Kizer was able to do in the season finale. Discipline in pass rush lanes will eliminate Bortles’ opportunities to scramble though. If Pittsburgh bottles up Fournette and Bortles can connect on throws down the field then you tip your cap and move on but that’s exactly what can’t happen.
Ride Your Experience. The idea of postseason experience being a major factor is often overrated but the discrepancy between these teams cannot go unmentioned. Pittsburgh only has a handful of guys who haven’t played an in NFL playoff game while the Jaguars entered the postseason with many unfamiliar faces. This goes further than that though because of the conditions. It’s going to be COLD on Sunday and the Steelers have to use this to their advantage. Getting off to a hot start and a lead can multiply the effects of the cold on the opponent much like it did last season against Miami. Mike Tomlin has to use his veterans to his advantage in this one.
Predictions I pointed out earlier this week how important the Red Zone is for these two. The Steelers squandered three trips to the RZ in week five and it cost them a chance to get a big, early lead. I see better success there and I see an inspired effort by the defense. Steelers 26 Jaguars 17