Across Enemy Lines: 5 Questions to Better Understand the Jaguars
The Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Jacksonville to take on the 1-8 Jaguars in an AFC matchup that holds more ground than it appears to.
The Steelers-Jaguars rivalry runs deeper than many know. Jacksonville was the last team to eliminate the Steelers from the postseason. They hold a 14-12 record over Pittsburgh. And even with one win, no one in the Steelers locker room has spent the week overlooking the Jaguars.
The Jaguars have spent the week telling media about sacking Ben Roethlisberger and growing up wanting to be Troy Polamalu. But how have they been preparing?
To take a deeper look into the Steelers' Week 11 opponent, AllSteelers spoke to John Shiply, Publisher of JaguarReport, a Sports Illustrated channel. Going across enemy lines, Shiply brings insight to the biggest topics the Steelers, and Steelers fans, want to know.
Q: Mike Tomlin said he isn't overlooking the 1-8 Jaguars. What leaves hope Jacksonville can steal the upset this week?
Shipley: The only real hope the Jaguars can cling to is their recent history against the Steelers under Doug Marrone, which plays a minimal factor at best, and their efforts to make games closer in recent weeks, which will play the biggest factor.
Marrone always knows which buttons to push with the Jaguars when it comes to facing Pittsburgh, but this year is obviously different when you factor in the massive roster overhaul the Jaguars underwent. With that said, this young and hungry Jaguars team has lost the last three games by a combined 16 points, being in every single game in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars aren't winning many games, but they are throwing their best punches before the fourth quarter ends,
Q: What makes James Robinson so dangerous, and how has he adapted so well as an undrafted rookie?
Shiply: Two things stand out the most about James Robinson: his instincts and his power. Robinson simply possesses superb vision for the running back position which, let's be honest, is a vast difference from Leonard Fournette.
Robinson rarely loses yards because he knows when to hit the hole and when to bounce it, and his eyes and instincts have yet to really fail him. Aside from that, he has just enough power in his frame to create yards after contact against defensive linemen, linebackers and members of secondaries. He can do it all as a running back but when he gets into open space, the biggest worry is his ability to bowl through tackles.
Q: What can the Steelers defense expect from a Jake Luton-led offense?
Shiply: The Steelers can expect the Jaguars to throw at least a handful of deep passes. Jacksonville didn't do this with Luton in Green Bay due to some extreme winds, but his first start in Jacksonville in Week 9 showed just how willing the Jaguars are to let him sit in the pocket and throw downfield.
Luton has been shaky in terms of his short and intermediate accuracy this season, but his deep passes have been much more consistent. Save for a bad interception against the Texans when he failed to step into a throw against pressure, Luton has shown the arm strength, courage and anticipation needed to test defenses vertically. With the weather a non-factor Sunday, expect to see this again.
Q: Who are the biggest name(s) to keep on an eye on on the Jaguars defense?
Shiply: I was going to say CJ Henderson after he came off a great performance against Davante Adams, but he went on IR on Thursday. Instead I will go with these two players: NT DaVon Hamilton, CB Sidney Jones.
Hamilton has been dominant over the last three games. The rookie third-rounder stepped into a starting role with Abry Jones on IR and he hasn't flinched in the role, making plays against the run and pass with a high level of frequency. Jones has given up a few big plays this year but he has made up for these with his own ability to generate takeaways, with the cornerback recording two interceptions and then being responsible for a tipped interception in Week 5. They are both young players who have gotten better with each passing week this season, and the Jaguars shouldn't overlook them.
Q: The Jaguars seem to always find ways to give the Steelers a hard time. Is Sunday's game close?
Shiply: It depends on your definition of close. I think the Steelers win a 30-17 type of game which in reality isn't close, but would likely be closer than others may expect. The Jaguars gave the Packers a serious scare in Week 10 but there is a much smaller chance of the Steelers taking them as unseriously as the Packers seemed too. Instead, the Steelers defensive front will be too much for a rookie quarterback, letting the Steelers get out to an early lead that is never threatened.