If you are a team that is playing the Jacksonville Jaguars then you can call it a trap game, unless you are the Miami Dolphins. Luckily the Steelers are not the Miami Dolphins so you can look at this as trap game city for the Steelers.
I am not going to be like Mike Tomlin and tell you that the Jags have a good team with good players because they don’t. They are a bad football team, especially on offense. If the Steelers can play this game like they did against the Titans then the game should go in the same direction with probably near the same results.
Have the Steelers lost to shitty teams before? Hell yea they have. Could they lose the game tomorrow? Yea, they could, but I wouldn’t count on it. This is, in fact, the NFL so anything is possible. The Jags do have NFL caliber players so I guess I shouldn’t be saying it is a given that they will win tomorrow but the Jacksonville offense isn’t very good (as you will see below) and they do not have the athletes on the field that the Steelers do.
This is a mismatch in terms of athleticism but the Steelers need to go out there and take advantage of that and burry this team as quickly as possible and not give them any hope. The Jags have a rookie quarterback starting this season and you know Dick LeBeau is sitting back and thinking of how he wants to confuse the young buck into making mistakes to kill his team.
The Steelers win this and they can move to 4-2. After the way the team started the season saying that they could be 4-2 is really saying something about how this team has steered clear of listening to the people from the outside and just readjusting, focusing on the fundamentals and beating teams you are supposed to beat.
Might be an interesting one. I hope not. Let’s get into the preview with the stats.
Pittsburgh 38, Tennessee 17
Passing: Roethlisberger - 22/34, 228 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Dwyer - 11 carries, 107 yards, 0 TD
Receiving: Wallace - 6 rec, 82 yards, 1 TD
Cinncinati 30, Jacksonville 20
Passing: Gabbert - 15/28, 221 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Jones-Drew - 19 carries, 85 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Hill - 5 rec, 126 yards, 1 TD
All-Time Record vs. Jacksonville: 9-11 (0-1 Playoffs)
Last Five Meetings
Oct. 5, 2008 - Pittsburgh 26, Jacksonville 21
Jan 5, 2008 - Jacksonville 31, Pittsburgh 29
Dec. 16, 2007 - Jacksonville 29, Pittsburgh 22
Sept. 18, 2006 - Jacksonville 9, Pittsburgh 0
Sept. 16, 2005 - Jacksonville, 23, Pittsburgh 17
Offense (rank in NFL)
Pittsburgh: 373.6 yards/game (12th)
Jacksonville: 270.6 yards/game (31st)
Pittsburgh: 263.8 yards/game (12th)
Jacksonville: 150.0 yards/game (31st)
Pittsburgh: 109.8 yards/game (17th)
Jacksonville: 120.6 yards/game (11th)
Pittsburgh: 20.4 points/game (23rd)
Jacksonville: 11.8 points/game (31st)
Pittsburgh: 282.8 yards/game (2nd)
Jacksonville: 316.4 yards/game (8th)
Pittsburgh: 174 yards/game (1st)
Jacksonville: 215.4 yards/game (10th)
Pittsburgh: 108.8 yards/game (16th)
Jacksonville: 101.0 yards/game (10th)
Pittsburgh: 17.8 points/game (t-4th)
Jacksonville: 23 points/game (12th)
Hit the jump for a closer look at the Jacksonville Jaguars
Not too often does a quarterback get selected in the first round of the draft and then immediately get thrown into the fire and succeed. It takes just the right situation for that to happen and for a team to benefit from it. Blaine Gabbert is not one of those situations.
That is not to say that Gabbert can’t be a great quarterback in the NFL, or that he is playing awful right now but the things just aren’t in place for this team to be good. Before the season the Jags cut their long term quarterback David Garrard in a move that caught most by complete surprise. Garrard was the team’s top quarterback and they saw some pretty decent success under him. With him out of the picture that left Gabbert and Luke McCown at the top of the quarterback depth chart.
McCown got the first two games in a win over Tennessee then a big loss to the Jets before turning the reigns over to Gabbert. Gabbert has been up and down in his game play. Overall on the season he hasn’t completed 50% of his p asses and his yards per attempt are a pedestrian 6.27. Hard to really say what his best game was. In a 16-10 loss to Carolina he completed 57% of his passes but only threw for 139 yards but when he threw for his season high of 221 yards last week he only completed 15-of-28 passes. He has three touchdown passes in four games played but I don’t expect Gabbert to expose the Steelers secondary.
Gabbert ranks second to last (33rd) among qualified quarterbacks according to Football Outsiders with a -153 DYAR which evaluates a players performance compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage. To put this number in perspective you want to have a positive number and he is only of five quarterbacks with a negative DYAR and only one of two with a triple digit negative number. Want to know who is the only quarterback worse? Luck McCownn. Yeesh.
The runnings backs for the Jags really starts and ends with one player and that is Maurice Jones-Drew. Drew is a dynamic running back in a stretch of tough backs that the Steelers have had to face this season. I know we talked about how multipurpose backs the Steelers have faced have been good but MJD might be one of the best in the league.
So far this season MJD has rushed for 476 yards on 96 carries for a healthy 5.0 yard for carry average and two touchdowns. Jones is stuck on a bad team and it really downplays how good he can be on a game-by-game basis. Football Outsiders ranks Jones-Drew as the 8th best back in terms of DYAR but he can’t be found in the top-15 in DVOA (number represents value, per play, over an average running back in the same game situations) and is even worse (20th) in Success Rate (This number represents the player's consistency, measured by successful running plays (the definition of success being different based on down and distance) divided by total running plays.).
It is really hard to sort through these numbers to see what they mean for MJD but he can be dynamic. Against the Steelers Jones-Drew has really been held in check. In three games he has only rushed for 80 yards and caught 13 passes for 59 yards. Not too awe inspiring but all it takes it one play to break a game open and get him started. Look at what Arian Foster did. I am not saying that Jones-Drew is as good as Foster but he is still a top back in the league.
Deji Karim is the backup running back that we can hopefully see a lot of. He is in this third year and for his first two years he has only carried the ball 66 times for 222 yards and no touchdowns while catching 12 passes for 105 yards. This season Karim has 31 carries for 62 yards and no touchdowns so I doubt we see a ton of him.
If the quarterback and running back depth didn’t get you too excited then the receivers are going to get you about as excited as a prostate exam. There is really no heavy hitter in this Jags receiving core and only two player have over 10 catches. Not good.
Mike Thomas is far and away the most talented receiver on the team with 23 catches for 265 yards and a touchdown and also owns four catches for 20 yards or more. Thomas is somewhat of an unheralded player but he defiantly has skills and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ike Taylor shadowed him all around the field.
Last season Thomas caught 66 passes for 820 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing for over 100 yards so it will be interesting to see if they try to throw him in a gadget play or two to try and get something started. This season Thomas has hauled in over 50 receiving yards in all but one contest but only has five or more catches in two of them. Granted, Gabbert isn’t completing many balls and Thomas is one of the only receiving threats so you can see why this might be a problem.
Jason Hill is on the other side for the Jags and according to Football Outsiders he is the most productive Jags wide out, even if he isn’t terribly productive. They have him ranked 72nd among qualified receivers with a -13 DYAR (remember positive is good) and ranks 73rd with a dismal -18.6% DVOA. He also has a catch rate of 44%. Yes, this is supposedly the top target according to advanced metrics. Jesus.
One guy in the passing game that worries me is tight end Marcedes Lewis. I know about every week we talk about how the teams the Steelers face has a tight end that I am scared of but in today’s NFL having a good tight end is almost a necessity and there are a lot of good ones out there. Lewis is a big man standing at 6-6 and 275 pounds he can create a matchup problem with pretty much any defensive back or safety. Last season Lewis caught 58 passes for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns and was a nice piece of my fantasy team. This year he has eight catches and 87 yards thought four games. Meh.
The offensive line is pretty average as far as offensive lines go. ON the season they have given up 12 quarterback sacks which ranks nrea the bottom of the league but is only one sack above the NFL average which is 11. I am not going to sit here and lie to you, I know very little about this offensive line, mainly because most of them are not household names.
From left to right you have Eugene Monroe, Eben Britton, Brad Meester, Uche Nwaneri and Guy Whimper. Yea, no idea. The left side of the line is the side with the least amount of experience with Monroe and Britton each only have three years in the league while Meester is the long tooth of the group with 12 years on him.
The Jags have the 21st ranked offensive line yards according to Football Outsiders which Adjusted Line Yards formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on the following percentages: Losses: 120% value, 0-4 Yards: 100% value, 5-10 Yards: 50% value, 11+ Yards: 0% value. These numbers are then adjusted based on down, distance, situation, opponent, and the difference in rushing average between shotgun compared to standard formations. They also rank 21st in the league with a 54% power success rate which determines how often the team is successful in short yardage situations. Where the Jags offensive line excels at is not getting dropped behind the line. They rank 11th in the league with a 17% stuffed percentage which is the percentage of runs where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. Maurice Jones-Drew might have something to do with this but the offensive line is at least giving him a chance to get positive yards which is always a plus.
Defensively the Jags are led by a name that most of you from Pennsylvania probably know. Paul Posluszny is the team top tackler with 39 total tackles after coming over from the Buffalo Bills. Posluszny was a hit at Penn State and then was drafted by the Bills and having sort of an underwhelming stay there. He had a gruesome arm injury early in his career but the big middle linebacker is having a nice season for the Jags. Along with his 39 tackles he has a sack and five passes defended.
Pitt product Clint Sessions is also on the team as a starting outside linebacker but hasn’t recorded a sack yet this season and as a team the defense has only registered eight sacks on the season with reserve defensive end Matt Roth leading the team with two and is the only player with more than one.
Starting safety Dwight Lowery has a pair of interceptions this season as the Jags secondary has six total. Actually every starter in the defensive backfield for the Jags has an interception and the Steelers as a team only has one interception and that was from linebacker LaMarr Woodley. The DB that scares me the most is Rashean Mathis. Mathis has 30 career interceptions and four of those have come against the Steelers and two of those have gone back for touchdowns. The only team that Mathis has picked off more is the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers with six. Mathis has three career pick-6’s and two of them are against the Steelers. Great.
According to Football Outsiders Jacksonville has a pretty even defense with a 0.1% Defensive DVOA (negative is better for defense) which is good for 12th in the league. They are categorized as a better team against the run with a -11.4% rush defense (10th in league) compared to a 10.4% pass defense (13th). Remember that for DVOA and defensive statistics positive numbers mean more scoring so negative numbers are good for the defense.
It is no secret that the Steelers had a ton of success against in the run game against the Tennessee Titans last week and that opened the rest of the offense up for them. The defensive line for the Jags is pretty average in most situations but ranks 9th overall in the league with an adjusted line yards (same definition as the offensive kind we looked at for the Jags offensive line) of 3.74 which is a pretty good number when considered alongside the entire league. Jacksonville ranks 16th in both power success at 62% and stuffed rank at 20%. Not really sure what this says for the Steelers as the offensive line has had a tough time getting the running game going but this Jags team shouldn’t give them too much trouble if they just stick with the assignments.
Overall the defense does a pretty good job for Jacksonville. They give up on average of 25.63 yards per dive, good for sixth in the league and hold the seventh best drive success rate which measures the percentage of down series that result in a first down or touchdown. Not bad for the defense.
-I know I talked about the Jacksonville for a good bit up top but to be honest this just isn’t a team that is going to move the ball on you in the game. They are going to have to win the game with defense and will probably need to create some turnovers on the Steelers offense to get that done. Under the rookie quarterback the Jags ranks near the bottom of the league in most drive statistics incluing yards per dive where they only gain about 22 yards, touchdowns per dive (.083) and drive success rate (.563) where rank dead last in those categories in the NFL. Not good for the offense. If the Steelers can get to Gabbert early and often it might be a horribly long day for the offense and give the Steelers a chance to dominate field position and time of possession.
-The Steelers defense stepped up in a huge way last weekend and it showed. The Steelers defensive DVOA sat at 19th in the league before the game with the Titans and now sits at 10th best in the league where I think is a more appropriate number for how the Steelers have played this season. Hopefully the Steelers are starting to settle in to a groove and I think they might be. The big day from Arian Foster was a pretty big blemish but overall when you only give up 17 points you should win. Last week they dominated a 3-1 Titans team and against Baltimore they were put in a major hole with the offense turning the ball over seven times. Overall I think the Steelers have gotten a little bad wrap for not playing terrible football all season. They are tops in the league in terms of pass defense and one of the top teams in the league in scoring defense. Isn’t the goal of the defense to keep the other team from scoring? Can things be better? Sure, they can. They could create a few more turnovers and get to the quarterback with a little more consistency but if they are only giving up a few points against teams when they aren’t doing those things particularly well then just imagine what it might be like when they are doing that. Scary.
-Sure, Ben Roethlisberger played last week with a pretty bad limp and a foot injury but he threw for over 200 yards and five touchdowns. No idea what it is about foot injuries, but it usually makes Roethlisberger play better. That being said I would expect offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to put in a game plan very similar to last week. The Steelers are known as one of the teams that will stretch the field and use a lot of five step drops to let receivers like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders get deep in the secondary but last week they went almost exclusively with three step drops and quick slants and out routes. The receivers did a great job of catching the ball and then making their speed valuable after the catch. It doesn’t matter if you catch and run for 50 yards or just catch a ball 50 yards down field and get tackled, it all counts the same. With Ben still probably banged up we should see a lot of quick passes and if it was anything like last week then it should be another big day for the offense.
-Before the season and mostly during the lockout a lot was made about resigning Ike Taylor. He was coming off his first big contract and was due a second one. Feelings were mixed among fans about Taylors worth to the team but he has been playing Pro Bowl football this season and has absolutely shut down every opposing receiver he has faced. Mike Thomas is going to be a challenge because he is far and away the most targeted Jags receiver so he will have his hands full. I am not really worried too much.
-What is starting to become a little worrisome for the Steelers is the ineptitude of the special teams to block for its kickers. Last week Daniel Sepulveda had a punt blocked and the week before a field goal was blocked. I am started to worry about this because against bad teams a blocked punt or kick was swing huge momentum in a big way and if they score off that block it is giving them points that the offense (which is bad) doesn’t have to work for. I am sure the Black and Gold went over this kind of stuff in its meetings this week but this could be a huge problem down the line if it continues.
Prediction: Steelers win big, 34-17.
Not much else to say. Get it done.