The Steelers needed to win this game. They didn't play great and they gave Jacksonville many opportunities to get things done but at the end of the day it was the Steelers defense that sealed the game. For a team that wasn't able to create any turnovers they all but ended the game with a pick-six from Brice McCain in the fourth quarter and held Jacksonville to only 243 total yards of offense. If you read the preview you know that Jacksonville was pretty bad offensively and while they were able to get a few drives going they ended in field goals.
The Steelers picked off two passes on the game and forced three fumbles. They didn't recover any of the fumbles but still really good to see the defense finally step up. Last week against Tampa Bay they couldn't get that game changing play and it allowed a below average (at best) offense to go up and down the field and eventually win the game. The defense got off the field on third down with Jacksonville converting only 3-of-12 times on third down so maybe that is the story of the game.
It was really pretty good across the board for the defense. Cortez Allen has been pretty brutal this season and thus he was targeted often in this game. I don't think he played great but this was easily his best game of the season. He had an interception in his second straight game and it was a pretty good play. He did get beat a few times but he had three additional pass breakups and did a much better job tackling the catch with seven tackles to co-lead the team. Hopefully this is a good jumping-off point for Allen.
The Steelers offense was really up and down. It is going to look pretty decent as they gained 372 yards and 111 on the ground while going 8-of-16 on third downs but they were bogged down. They converted only once in four red zone opportunities and they combined for zero points in the second half. The only second half points came on the McCain interception. The defense faced a pretty bad offense and if the Steelers are going to start running off some wins the offense is going to be have to be more consistent and put up more points.
It is going to look like the offense line had another bad game but I am not really sure they were all that bad. Ben Roethlisberger got sacked four times on the day, which is less than ideal, but I would say about three of those were on Ben himself. It is no secret that he holds onto the ball a long time and most of the time that results in some really good plays for the Steelers. Other times it results in sacks and sometimes turnovers like it did yesterday. I am not going to sit here and say that he should try to force more passes into tight windows or that he should throw every pass away when his third or fourth read isn't there initially but in certain spots just chucking the ball into the seventh row wouldn't be awful to save seven or eight yards. It's a fine line to walk because he does so many good things by not throwing the ball away but sometimes less is more. The offensive line is going to take heat for those sacks but I don't really think it was all on them.
In the preview I talked about the Jacksonville run defense and how it was the best part of the team but the Steelers, and the offensive line, did a pretty good job of attacking them. As I said before they ran for 111 yards on 28 carries which included 82 yards on 15 carries for Le'Veon Bell. Bell was once again one of the best offensive players on the day and along with his running stats he added five catches (on six targets) for 36 yards. Along with Bell his partner in crime LeGarrette Blount had 29 yards on eight carries while making three catches for 16 yards. All-in-all it was a really nice job by the run game against a pretty decent run defense. That makes it all the more head scratching as to why the passing game was bad against a pretty bad pass defense.
The really big talking point coming off the game was in terms of a late game pass play to Antonio Brown. The Steelers defense came up big with a three and out with just over four minutes left in the game. The Steelers picked up a first down right before the two minute warning which meant they could almost just kneel the ball and the game would be over. Instead on first down the Steelers lined up Antonio Brown in the backfield and threw him a quick screen pass. Why would they do that? Brown had only four catches and needed one more to extend his NFL streak of five catches for 50 yards. He got the catch and it went for 16 yards. This is a tough one for me. While I think playing for personal records is not ideal I can see why the Steelers would want to make that play. He's been as good as you can imagine this season and extending a record, albeit an amazingly arbitrary one, is pretty cool. This is a different story if he fumbles or the pass is intercepted but it wasn't. I probably wouldn't advise doing it in the future but it doesn't both me all that much.
The Steelers cut down on the penalties a bit. They had only seven of them for 50 yards which is about half of what their season average is. They have been a wildly undisciplined team this year so it is kind of nice to see that they can keep themselves in check. I won't say it was perfect because there were some bad penalties (hi Lance Moore) but it isn't the worst they've been all season, by a long shot.
I wouldn't chalk this up as a "good" win in the sense that Jacksonville was giving up almost 40 points per game and the Steelers were largely kept in check but at this point I will take any win. Actually at any point I will take a win. It is much better than a loss, no matter what someone else might tell you.