Thursday evening, as I lay sound asleep (at least I think I was sound asleep), I was visited by a shadowy figure (perhaps some sort of ghost or football god from the heavens) who looked an awful lot like my mailman. He leaned over to me and, in a very cryptic fashion, whispered, “The Steelers will be touched by the Mike Tomlin Trap Game Llama when they take on the 1-8 Jaguars this Sunday at TIAA Bank Field. Remember when the Steelers overlooked the Jaguars three years ago in the playoffs, thanks to that interview Tomlin did with Tony Dungy weeks prior? It’s going to happen again on Sunday, you watch!”
“The Mike Tomlin Trap Game Llama!” I said to myself as I sat straight up in bed. I was startled, but I was also impressed with my mailman’s memory and attention to detail. And a Mike Tomlin Trap Game Llama? I had no idea such a thing existed. It was kind of creepy, but it made sense that a cursed mammal occasionally came along to haunt the Steelers right when they were about to take on an inferior opponent. I wanted to know more about it, but my mailman disappeared into the night before I could ask him for the details.
I spotted my mailman on Friday afternoon, and I said to him, “So, this Mike Tomlin Trap Game Llama, can you tell me more about it?” He looked at me like I was crazy and then seemed genuinely frightened and alarmed when I mentioned his visit to my bedroom the night before.
As I watched my mailman speed away in his USPS truck, it suddenly occurred to me: I must have been dreaming about his visit on Thursday evening, about the Mike Tomlin Trap Game Llama, everything.
I’m not saying the Steelers might not be overlooking Jacksonville on Sunday, nor am I disputing the existence of some sort of Trap Game Llama. I’m not even denying the possibility that my mailman also doubles as a football prophet after dark.
What I am denying, however, is that the Steelers ever overlooked Jacksonville three years ago. I can’t believe I have to keep repeating myself, but since this is Jags Week, here we go again: The reason Pittsburgh lost that divisional round playoff matchup at Heinz Field three years ago was because the Jaguars did in that game what they did in a 30-9 win during the regular season: They took the football away, pressured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and rushed the ball down the Steelers’ throat.
In other words, the Jaguars were simply a bad matchup. As the saying goes, the matchup makes the match, and the Steelers had no answers for Jacksonville that year.
The Jaguars offense finished first in rushing in 2017. Their defense generated 33 takeaways and sacked the quarterback 55 times.
Rookie running back Leonard Fournette was at the height of his powers in 2017, especially when he rushed for 181 yards in the regular season win at Pittsburgh. Fournette tallied another 125 yards and three touchdowns in the 45-42 victory in the divisional round game at Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger threw five interceptions in the regular-season loss to the Jaguars—including two that were returned for touchdowns. Jacksonville also recorded two sacks in that game. Roethlisberger fared much better in the playoff rematch, as he passed for 469 yards and five touchdowns. However, the Jaguars sacked him two more times and scored another defensive touchdown off one of them.
Making matters worse, the Steelers were without inside linebacker Ryan Shazier for the playoffs, and they were WITH inside linebacker Sean Spence, who was signed off the couch after Shazier’s unfortunate spinal injury late in the season.
You want to blame someone for that Jacksonville playoff game, blame the officials who robbed Jesse James of a touchdown in the heartbreaking loss to New England at Heinz Field late in the regular season. A victory would have all but locked up the number one seed for the Steelers. Instead, they got the second seed and a rematch with the Jaguars.
The 2017 Jaguars had a plethora of talent on defense—including cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The 2020 Jacksonville defense has Myles Jack, who was probably hoping to get traded before the deadline, and is giving up 30.1 points per game.
The quarterback for the 2017 Jags was Blake Bortles, who must look really good to them right now despite being Blake Bortles. The 2020 squad has Jake Luton. Yes, rookie running back James Robinson seems promising, but who are their receivers? Who are their tight ends? Tyler Eifert? He was probably hoping to get traded back to the Bengals. Who are their offensive linemen? No, I’m seriously asking—they’ve allowed 28 sacks.
This is a very bad team, one way more worthy of the “Trap” talk than the 2017 version.
The 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars very well could come out of the jungle of futility and scratch out the Steelers unblemished record. Maybe the Mike Tomlin Trap Game Llama is real, and maybe it will haunt Pittsburgh this Sunday.
As for what happened three years ago, there were no traps at all. The Jaguars were just the better football team.
Stop sleeping on the 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars.