Wildcard Saturday: Jacksonville vs. Pittsburgh
By Chris Pokorny, PFCritics WriterJanuary 5, 2008
Are the Jaguars battle-tested? Indeed they are. It was less than a month ago that the Jaguars went in to Heinz Field to hand the Steelers their first home loss of the season. Fred Taylor had one of the best games in recent memory against the Steelers and David Garrard continued to throw the ball efficiently. Jacksonville is a feared team in the postseason; can the Steelers use their previous postseason experience to lead them to victory?
David Garrard: 208 of 325 for 2509 yards, 18 touchdowns, 3
interceptions, 21 sacks, 2 fumbles. 49 carries, 185 yards, 1 touchdown.
Note: Garrard has done a tremendous job with ball security. Three
interceptions for a starting quarterback in the playoffs? The Steelers,
while having fair coverage in their secondary throughout the season, only
have 11 interceptions this season. When Garrard faced Pittsburgh earlier
this season, he tossed three touchdowns (and one interception). Garrard's
efficient play has been the "X-factor" this season for the Jaguars, and he
can't afford to suddenly have his first slip up in the postseason.
Ben Roethlisberger: 264 of 404 for 3154 yards, 32 touchdowns, 11
interceptions, 47 sacks, 3 fumbles. 35 carries, 204 yards, 2 touchdowns.
Note: What can you say about Roethlisberger? He threw for a career
high in touchdowns and was the orchestrator of several key comebacks for
the Steelers. He also had extra time to rest as he didn't play in Week 17
against the Baltimore Ravens. Amidst this "solid" season for Big Ben
though, there was one flaw that stood out: the amount of sacks he took.
While a few of his legendary runs against a team like the Browns stand out,
the Jaguars prevented him from rolling out the way he's accustomed to. He
was sacked five times by Jacksonville in their regular season bout.
Note: You won't find a team more confident in their ability to run
the football in the league than the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fred Taylor
torched the Steelers' defense for 147 yards in their first matchup, and
Maurice Jones-Drew faired pretty well too with 69 yards. Jones-Drew is
solid at catching the ball too, adding to the Jaguars' versatility to have
a complete backfield with whoever they interchange into the game.
Note: Could the Steelers be in trouble? Willie Parker, their leading
rusher for the past several years, is still out with a fractured leg.
Davenport has been one of the league's best backups, but whether or not
he's battle-tested enough to face the Jaguars' defense remains in question.
While Parker had some success against the Jaguars in Week 15, Davenport
only had one carry for -4 yards. And, if something happens to Davenport,
it'll be interesting to see how the Steelers adjust their gameplan.
Note: Much like the Redskins over in the NFC, the Jaguars don't
really feature a premier receiver. Their only real addition in the
offseason was Dennis Northcutt, who had the type of season expected of him.
Williams was clearly Garrard's favorite target on plays intended to go for
touchdowns, especially when you consider that 26% of his receptions were
for scores. Northcutt will have a slight chance to redeem himself for a
previous postseason miscue. In 2002 with the Cleveland Browns, he dropped
what would have been a game-sealing wide-open catch in the postseason
against the Steelers.
Note: It's hard to complain about the receivers that the Steelers
put on the field. Santonio Holmes didn't have any form of a sophomore slump
and has come up with a lot of big catches, especially when Hines Ward has
been limited with a couple of injuries. Roethlisberger will be pleased to
have his full supporting cast available on gameday. No single receiver
particularly shined against the Jaguars in Week 15 though -- the leading
receiver was Holmes with four catches for 34 yards.
Note: The Jaguars have had the defense for years now. Now that they
have the support of the offense, it's time for them to continue playing
solid in the postseason and live up to their reputation. They sacked
Roethlisberger five times in their previous matchup but gave up two late
touchdowns to Roethlisberger. They were fortunate not to let Big Ben rally
in Week 15 -- if they let up in the playoffs, it'll be a tough task taking
the Steelers down twice at their home.
Note: The Steelers were the top-ranked defense in the league this
season. They were one of the best teams at defending both the run and the
pass. And yet, over the second half of the season, it seemed like they
weren't making the "big" plays. The Patriots handled them with ease. The
Jaguars ran all over them. The Rams even put up quite a few scores against
them. The Steelers couldn't disrupt Jacksonville in Week 15. If they can't
do that in the postseason, it'll be their downfall.
Maurice Jones-Drew: 26.2 yards per kick return, 1 touchdown. Dennis Northcutt: 9.2 yards per punt return. Josh Scobee: 12-of-13 in field goals, with a long of 48 yards.
Note: The Jaguars were happy to get kicker Josh Scobee back from
injury in the second half of the season. Scobee was only counted on to
attempt one kick against the Steelers, but it'll be tough for him to make
deep kicks in Heinz Field. Northcutt has historically had pretty good
returns against the Steelers from his days in Cleveland.
Allen Rossum: 23.3 yards per kick return, 1 touchdown. 6.4 yards
per punt return. Jeff Reed: 23-of-25 in field goals, with a long of 49 yards.
Note: The Steelers were looking for a good return man this season,
and they got a decent one in the veteran Rossum. Reed has been consistent
for the Steelers the last couple of years and will be ready if called upon
for a big kick.
The Jaguars have been deemed as the team you don't want to face in the
Does that mean there is pressure on them? No. Garrard has made the big
throws all season long. Taylor and Jones-Drew have made the big runs all
season. That's not going to stop suddenly.
Does that mean the pressure is on the Steelers? No. The Steelers have a lot
of playoff experience on their team, and Roethlisberger is more than
accustomed to handling adversity.
This game isn't about handling pressure -- it'll be about who matches up
better. The thing that the Steelers do best is running the football and
stopping the run. Taylor and Jones-Drew are built to play physical against
the Steelers' defense. The Jaguars' defensive line is built to play
smash-mouth football against the Steelers' offensive line.
The Steelers only lost one home game this season and that came against the
Jaguars. Asking the Jaguars to beat the Steelers again on the road is a
tall order to ask for, but how many times does this team have to make a
statement before they are considered the favorites?