The Pittsburgh Steelers officially fell to 4-3 in Week 8, as their home losing streak against the Jacksonville Jaguars lives to unfortunately see another day. After an eventful day, riddled with injuries, including to All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and starting quarterback Kenny Pickett, ruled out with hamstring and rib injuries, respectively.
Despite the loss, there was some excitement to start the day the day, as rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. announced with the starters ahead of the game — the first start of his young career. His start was set up with the absence of veteran Levi Wallace, who was inactive with a foot injury that had limited him throughout the week.
The Pittsburgh Steelers received the ball first, kicking off Sunday’s contest with a deep target downfield that went right off of the fingertips of WR Diontae Johnson. The Jaguars dialed up the pressure in the play to follow, with 2022 No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker notching the first sack of the day.
Unfortunately, after what looked like a clutch stop from Steelers cornerback James Pierre on a target to Calvin Ridley, was called for forced defensive pass interference... on what might have been the latest flag thrown in the history of football. Ball don’t lie, however, as DL Montravius Adams came up with a monstrous tackle for a loss on the following play, setting them back three yards. The drive ended up yielding a 50-yard field goal from veteran Brandon McManus — his third kick of 50 or more yards so far this season, made all the more impressive given the weather and what has historically been a challenge of kicking inside Acrisure Stadium.
The Steelers received the ball back, but only briefly, as Najee Harris totaled four total yards on back-to-back runs, followed by a nasty almost-interception on a target to Diontae Johnson. Harvin punted — this time a 51-yard boot to set the Jaguars up at their own 20-yard line. From there, Jaguars WR Jamal Agnew took it for a 12-yard return, with the Jaguars driving once again down the field before stalling out at the Steelers’ 32 yard-line to set up McManus for his second field goal of the day, good from 51 yards.
Just as things looked as grim as ever, linebackers Kwon Alexander and Cole Holcomb made the play to turn it all around, with Alexander forcing a fumble and Holcomb recovering to set the Steelers back up on offense. But... you guessed it... it didn’t go anywhere. Another three-and-out. They got a second chance on it, though, as the Jaguars drove to the end zone before safety Damontae Kazee came up with their second turnover for the day — an interception in the end zone to save them a score. Unfortunately (and mistakenly) attempted to run it out of the end zone, going out of bounds at the second-yard line to pin the Steelers in their end zone.
Thankfully, being pinned back wasn’t an issue, however. After a one-yard run for Harris, Pickett followed it up with another target to Johnson, this time complete for a 12-yard gain, nabbing the Steelers their first first down with 9:38 left in the second quarter. This marked a shift in momentum, following that up with a target to second-year receiver Calvin Austin, on which Jaguars linebacker Foyesade Oluokun was called for pass interference to set up another first down.
In between some more targets for Johnson were several inefficient runs, eventually setting the Steelers up for their first red zone trip of the day, ending with an incomplete end zone target to Johnson, who slipped on the play. Despite failing to score the touchdown, kicker Chris Boswell kicked the 22-yard field goal for the Steelers’ first points of the day. Johnson finished the drive with five catches for 51 yards.
Though the Steelers defense looked like it would hold once again on the following drive, another gut-wrenching penalty for Pierre — this time a hold — gifted the Jaguars a first down headed into the two-minute warning, which set up McManus’ third field goal of the day, this time, good from 38 yards.
The Steelers got the ball back with 1:04 left on the clock in the second half, but just as the Steelers began to drive, a bizarre series of events culminated with an injury to Pickett and no points for the Steelers.
To recap the last 30 sec:— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) October 29, 2023
-Pickett fumbles going out of bounds, he picks up a first down, but there's a 10-sec run off.
-Pickett hurt by Adam Gotsis on the next play, Steelers charged a timeout
-Steelers settle for a 55-yard FG attempt, called for offside on RG
Returning from the half, the Jaguars drove for 40 yards and looked like they were about to do some damage, but once again, the defense stepped up, forcing a fumble against rookie running back Tank Bigsby and securing a turnover. As the Steelers offense took the field, it was backup Mitch Trubisky in at quarterback, with the team officially ruling Pickett out with a rib injury. The Steelers go three and out, but to their luck, the same was true for the Jaguars, going three-and-out themselves for the first punt of the day. Following an overturned catch for WR George Pickens, the Steelers punted once again — Harvin’s sixth of the day.
It was that punt, a 29-yard boot to the Jaguars’ 44-yard line, which set up the first touchdown of the game on a 56-yard throw from Lawrence to RB Travis Etienne. Jacksonville went to for the two-point conversion, and boom. It’s suddenly 17-3 in favor of the Jags.
Though a 14-point deficit isn’t ever ideal, it did seem to wake up the Steelers a bit, who drove down the field quickly. Trubisky found Pickens for his first catch of the day, a 22-yard touchdown. The celebrations didn’t last long, though, as WR Diontae Johnson hobbled to the sideline after the drive, requiring assistance from two staff members into the blue medical tent with an unknown injury.
Johnson emerged again to play on the next drive, luckily, presenting just another scare for the Steelers on the injury front. Trubisky took a five-yard sack before the team elected to once again run with Najee Harris for a two-yard gain before Trubisky ended all hopes for the drive with an ill-timed interception to set up another field goal from McManus to make it a 10-point lead.
The two sides traded the ball two more times before Trubisky threw an interception to close out the game on a Hail Mary. Jaguars win 20-10 to extend their winning streak to five games, as the Steelers struggle mightily, unable to recover after the loss of two key starters.
Trubisky finished the game with 138 passing yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions following Pickett’s injury just ahead of halftime. Jaylen Warren was the team’s leading rusher at 19 total yards, an obvious problem as this team struggles to establish a consistent run game week over week.
Unfortunately, the Steelers find themselves on a short week, set to face the Tennessee Titans at home in Week 9 on Thursday Night Football, giving them just days to get healthy.