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Stillers-Jags Preview

October 05, 2008 by Guest

Steelers @ Jaguars, Game 4 Preview       By The Mighty Quinn

Overall Ratings: Steelers 67 out of 100, Jaguars 70 out of 100


Passing Game:

Quarterback: Steelers 7.5/10, Jaguars 7/10


It took an embarrassing first half with ALL 3 first downs coming on their opening possession, 3 sacks, 3 penalties, 3 points and about 3 million fans booing at the Ketchup Pasture and across the country before Roethlisberger lost his patience.  At the half he called out his team, then he approached Arians with some suggestions on how to call a game.  What followed wasn�t exactly an offensive explosion but enough to keep him off of the turf for the rest of the game. We finally experienced some of the quarterback play we�re accustomed to from #7, specifically those Houdini-like escapes.  If nothing else, it appeared to return Ben to a more comfortable and confident state as he hit 9 of 15 passes for 148 yards including plays of 38 (TD), 49, and 24 yards.


Over his career, Big Ben is 80 for 135, 940 yards with 5 TD�s and 8 picks against the Jags, but recall one of those games came in an ill-advised start one week after his appendectomy in �06.


After the last two, or at least one and a half, debacles it�s hard to completely fault the QB but Ben still holds onto the ball too long and he looks understandably apprehensive.  The rhythm necessary to succeed lies in quicker passes to shorter routes.  He and BA should operate under the assumption that there are only 2 to 3 seconds to throw the ball; otherwise, it�s time to operate under the 5, now 6, D�s of �Dodgeball�: dodge, duck, dip, dive, dodge, and deliver the ball out of bounds.


As a side note, Ben hasn�t practiced through Thursday but Tomlin expects him to play.  If not, we have a huge advantage in the revenge factor � Leftwich can throw 110 MPH fastballs at his former team.


So far this season, the Jacksonville passing game has been a study in contrasts.  Garrard completes over two-thirds of his passes yet he ranks 18th in yards per attempt.  He�s thrown for the 5th highest NFL percentage of his team�s first downs, but the team bogs down in the red zone ranking 30th in scoring percentage including only 2 TD passes.  What this leads us to is a methodical passing game, barren of big plays with a long throw of only 33 yards this season.


Some tendencies to consider:  On the plays I was able to watch from the Houston and Indianapolis games, Garrard�s progressions seem to end quickly.  He�ll look at one receiver down the field.  If that�s not open he immediately checks down to a RB although that�s not a bad idea when you�re delivering to versatile backs like Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor.  Also, through the first four games of the year Jacksonville has faced 41 plays where it�s 3rd and 4 or more yards and they�ve lined-up in the shotgun 39 times.  While the shotgun formation on 3rd down is common throughout the NFL, the Jags do it to eliminate Garrard�s height disadvantage (6�1�) so that he can see the field more clearly, and it also gives him more initial space to take advantage of his above-average running ability.  


Steelers Receivers against Jaguars Pass Defenders:  Steelers 6.5/10, Jaguars 6/10


Besides Rashean Mathis (special thanks to Tommy Maddox), none of the Jaguars� corners and safeties jump off the screen.  If you�ve seen any of their games, you may recognize them as the slow guys trailing behind their opponents� receivers, or maybe playing the role of allowing WR�s to catch the ball in a weakly played 2-deep zone. 


Injuries hit the defensive backs as Gerald Sensabaugh has stepped in for Reggie Nelson against the Texans (Nelson has yet to practice this week).  Sensabaugh does tackle well, but they probably don�t want their free safety leading the team in stops.  RCB Drayton Florence is not practicing due to the dreaded groin issue.  Journeyman William James #22 replaces Florence if Drayton�s groin doesn�t straighten up.  The Jags may be better off, or just as bad, without the starters.  In 2008 they�ve allowed a completion percentage of 66%, a 93.1 passer rating, and sixteen plays over 20 yards which ranks them 31st in that category.


Sure, this news would be wonderful if only the Steelers receivers learned how to break off routes.  Or if they could get open in the heartbeat that Ben has to throw the ball.  Never was it more evident that the Steelers need to get the ball in Santonio�s hands after he pinballed his way to the end zone Monday night.  PLEASE, more quick slants and short crossers to Holmes and let him pile up the RAC yards. 


Jacksonville also disdains covering the TE.  If the Steelers watch any film of Texans v Jags, or the playoff loss last year, this is obvious. 


Jacksonville�s bend don�t break philosophy plays right into the hands of what the Steelers need to do in the passing game.  Take what they give you, shorten routes, and rely on timing.         


Jaguars Receivers/Steelers Pass Defenders:  Steelers 7.5/10, Jaguars 6/10


An all-pro on the malcontent team, offseason acquisition Jagoff Jerry Porter complained this week about not getting the ball enough after playing in his first game.  Maybe they should heed his bitching because the WR unit is bereft of a deep threat.  Whether he�ll start or not is in question but they�ll definitely use him in their 3 WR sets.


What Jacksonville lacks in a deep threat, they more than make up for in height with 6�6� Matt Jones and 6�4� Reggie Williams.  Until they install hoops in the end zones their stature means little.  From reading a Jag blog, the apparent issue lies in their inability to get off fast at the snap and their route running comes into question.  From the bits and pieces of replay I have seen, they look, well�awkward.  They fail in creating ample space between themselves and the d-backs.  If the Jaguars want to stretch the field, their best bet would be in tossing out some jump balls against No-Hands Taylor and No-Hops McFadden.  Otherwise, the Steelers CB�s should be physical enough to handle the taller receivers.


I�m not sure why the offensive coordinator hasn�t thought of this but if the phrase �getting off the line� is affecting Matt Jones� desire to beat the initial jam, they may want to consider something like �sprint for the big white stripe�.  Motivation issue solved.


The Steelers can ignore the Jags TE�s since Garrard does, too.


The real problem exists when the RB�s catch the ball.  In �08, three Jaguar RB�s have totaled 26 receptions to this point.  Compare that to 7 grabs by running backs in the Steelers� offense.  We�re all familiar with Maurice Jones-Drew and the threat he poses receiving.  Whenever Garrard feels some heat, he immediately looks for MJD, Taylor, or Greg Jones.  Luckily, Polamalu should be closer to the line to thwart some of the outlet valve passes that seem to turn third and long into first downs against this defense.     


Line Play and Running Game:

Steelers� running game against Jaguars� run defense:  Steelers 5.5/10, Jaguars 6.5/10


What do the numbers 33 and 69 mean to you?  Nope � they�re not the number on a bottle of Rolling Rock and your favorite position.  Those are the Steelers� rushing totals the last 2 weeks.  Granted, the ground game faced the first and second ranked run defenses in the league in those two games, but considering the guys toting the rock this week, don�t expect much from the replacements.  We�re going with 2 undrafted free agents, another guy who was out of work last Monday, and Minnesota�s 2007 3rd string back. 


Up front, Jax no longer has Marcus Stroud but Meier and Henderson continue to make interior running rough, freeing up room for MLB Mike Peterson.  Jags strong safety Brian Williams often plays along side the LB�s, giving a 4-4 look to the defensive alignment.


Old Milwaukee Moore starts this Sunday night.  It does give the Steelers quickness, which they will need as the holes close fast.  We could see the ultimate RB by committee approach as all of the backs should get playing time and a fair chance at getting injured like the rest of their ball carrying brethren.


Lastly, if you like a little side action, bet that the Steelers will have at least 2 fewer false start penalties with Stapleton taking the place of Simmons based on first team reps in practice this week.     


Jaguars� running game against Steelers� run defense:  Steelers 7.5/10, Jaguars 7.5/10


If this game turns into a war of attrition and time of possession, there could be issues in the second half.  Not that he played like Mean Joe in his prime, but Nick Eason was a body and his body likely won�t be on the field, leaving the Steelers with only 4 healthy d-linemen. 


Taylor, Jones-Drew and others torched the Steelers for 359 yards at 5.1 ypc in their two meetings in 2007.  While I give the Steelers a high mark for their run defense thus far, they haven�t faced anyone with this much ability in 2008, disregarding Westbrook since he was injured early in the Philly loss.


Jacksonville has taken the brunt of the injury and gunshot bug along the offensive line.  Both starting guards were placed on IR after the first game, and starting center Brad Meester has missed the first four games of the season.  


Garrard�s running ability remains an all too memorable issue that the defense must respect.  He�s carried the ball 18 times this year.  Especially troubling were his three carries on the Jags final drive of the 4th quarter last week, where he converted a 3rd and 10, a 4th and 8, and scored the go ahead TD on a designed draw from 5 yards out.  Steeler fans are all too familiar with his backbreaking scrambles.    


Steelers� pass blocking against Jaguars� pass rush:  Steelers 4.5/10, Jaguars 6/10


Good news � Jacksonville blitzes infrequently.  Bad news � due to the advent of game tape, Jacksonville�s defensive game plan should change this week.  In a few situations I noticed that Jacksonville attempted to bring pressure when showing a 3-man front, with 2 LB�s or a LB and a safety.  Houston handled this easily as the extra pass rushers came up the middle, leaving the Texans� receivers with tons of room.


Can someone explain how to avoid the cringe factor when the Steelers drop back to pass?  It�s getting to the point where the o-line could stand with their backs to the defense and perform just as well.  While Baltimore didn�t bring Ben down in the second half, he still encountered significant pressure.  Besides a shake-up in the play calling and an ascent to mediocrity by the running game, what can they change to help the starting 5?  Would more designed roll-outs help at all?  Spaeth and Miller aren�t doing anything to control the onslaught, either.


Some consolation can be found when considering the degree of talent in the Jax Jags� defensive front 7, and the blueprint they follow.  It�s substantially inferior to Baltimore in both regards, and they don�t follow the same pressure-based mantra preached for years by the Eagles.


Until the Steelers show momentous improvement protecting the $100 million man there is no reason to rate them higher than any team, including local community colleges.      


I can�t wait for the bye week.  Addressing their line calls and blitz pick-up requires tons of thought, time, and practice.    


Jaguars� pass blocking against Steelers� pass rush:  Steelers 8/10, Jaguars 6/10

Not since the heyday of Alonzo Jackson and Rian Wallace�wait, wait, wait.  It�s hard to imagine two players wreaking more havoc in the backfield through the first quarter of the season than Woodley and Silverback.  It�s been one of the few consistently high-spots on the squad.  Jacksonville has been vulnerable when facing superior pass rushers, evidenced in their seven sacks allowed in the opening week loss to the Titans.  Granted, the Titans bring a lot of the pressure inside where Jacksonville�s pass blocking is weakest.  Maybe, just maybe, the fabled and futile Foote-Farrior cross-fire will work once this week.


Left tackle Khalif Barnes struggled against all-pro Mario Williams last week, allowing 5 hits on Garrard. 


Special Teams:

Steelers return game /Jaguars coverage game:  Steelers 4.5/8, Jaguars 7/8


Until something noteworthy happens in the return game for the Steelers, this section may be blank in upcoming weeks.  Your kids can color in the space provided, use it to plan a menu for the game, or you can write a get healthy soon message and send it to the training room � there are tons of creative outlets.


On kickoff returns, Jax ranks 1st in average allowed per return.  Standouts are Prioleau and Sensabaugh.  They�re not as solid on punt returns, but the punter has three solo tackles.  With Mewelde starting at RB maybe Najeh can test his fresh legs bringing back kickoffs.


Jaguars return game/Steelers coverage game:  Steelers 6.5/8, Jaguars 7/8


While not as familiar to fans as Hester, Cribbs, and Parrish, the Jaguars stumbled upon a rocket in undrafted FA Brian Witherspoon.  Handling both kickoff and punt returns, he ranks 4th and 3rd respectively.  Once he gets the ball he�s at full speed instantly. 


The continually impressive Steeler coverage gang will have to prove themselves once more.  Anthony Madison (again) and the White Flash Patrick Bailey performed with the level of desire needed to excel on the specialty units against Baltimore.


Steelers kicking game/Jaguars kicking game:  Steelers 7/8, Jaguars 7/8


While below average in both gross and net distance, Berger and Podlesh do crack the top 10 in % of punts inside the 20.  After a stronger than expected start Berger fired a couple of duds last week.  In another duel over tilting field position, the first one to falter may cost his team dearly.


Not much separates Reed and Scobee.  They�ve only missed one FG between them and each has range beyond 50 yards.  Skippy is in his groove on kickoffs too and from the little comparison I could do, it seems like more of his reach the goal line or deeper.  They�ve even hit a couple of clutch kicks if you include Reed�s FG in the Cleveland hurricane.  Scobee has two legitimate game winning kicks in the Jags� last couple of games.


Tangibles and Intangibles:  Steelers 2/6, Jaguars 4/6


Maybe the media enhances how tragedies affect teams beyond the true repercussions.  With that said, Jaguar players enhanced the reward for information related to the shooting of back up tackle Richard Collier.  It was confirmed this week that he is paralyzed from the waist down and he had a leg amputated.  Whether this pushes his team to a more intense effort is yet to be seen, but based on their support it shouldn�t result in a negative. 


Jacksonville has a nice streak going against the Steelers.  It�s one of those games on the schedule outside of the division that smells of a rivalry.  The Steelers have provided the vomit and compost odors in recent clashes.


Give me one good reason the Steelers shouldn�t employ the no-huddle t start the game.  Because Jacksonville might prepare for it?  So what!!!


Watching the Steelers on offense the last three weeks has proven to be nothing short of excruciating.  They get my vote of no confidence.  Before the impromptu connection from Ben to Holmes, who out there was thinking the only way this team crosses the goal line is with a defensive player returning a pick or fumble?  There should be a lot of hands held high.  The offense has no direction, no rhythm, and no continuity.  And until they change their mindset, I have no faith against any team save for the NFL�s bottom dwellers.


Top to bottom the Steelers� talent outweighs Jacksonville�s.  That�s what makes this selection difficult.


Jaguars 20   Steelers 13     


In other Pittsburgh versus Florida football team news�congrats to the Pitt Panthers for a major win on national TV against South Florida.



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