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Steelers vs. Jaguars: Record-breaking Blake Bortles leads wounded Jacksonville into Week 5

The Steelers have fared well against rookie quarterbacks but this clearly isn't the same Steelers defense of the past decade.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The comparisons to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger are impossible for rookie Blake Bortles to avoid. He's big, he has light feet and a penchant for making big plays.

Just like Roethlisberger, the finer nuances of his game are overlooked. And also, just like Big Ben, that's what makes him the most dangerous.

Bortles set an NFL rookie record for completion percentage in a game with at least 30 pass attempts by going 29-for-37 in Jacksonville's 33-14 loss to San Diego. It's a team facing injuries and a general lack of talent, but Bortles showed Sunday he's capable of making their pool of mediocrity shimmer a bit brighter.

Even Dwight Freeney, one of the league's best pass rushers and a sure-fire Hall of Fame player, spoke highly of him after the Chargers' win.

"Bortles is going to be a force in this league," Freeney said, as quoted by Jacksonville Union Times reporter Hays Carlyon. "But, they have to get the right weapons around him and get him some better protection."

That's also a narrative used as a general assessment of Roethlisberger throughout the years. Another one is winning, something the Jaguars have failed to do in four tries this season. Their defense is surrendering 38 points per game, by far the highest amount in the league. But with Bortles looking to make his second career start and his first at home, the Steelers should expect a fully-prepared Bortles on Sunday at EverBank Field.

It's a more difficult challenge than most will want to admit. The Steelers' secondary was touched up by Tampa Bay's Mike Glennon in a 27-24 loss in Week 3. Like Jacksonville, the Buccaneers were previously winless as well. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has a 18-2 record against rookie quarterbacks since 2004, a stat that's lost some of its luster over the last season and a half or perhaps even longer. Football Outsiders' Scott Kaczmar has been tracking statistics aimed to disprove LeBeau's positive legacy for some time now, and he recently showed the Steelers, with the loss to the Bucs, have seen an opponent score the game-winning points with 15 seconds or less in a game nine times since 2007, the most in the NFL.

Bortles has the kind of swagger and confidence a quarterback needs to pull out late victories. So the key for the Steelers is to get a lead early and maintain it. Whether they can do that or not may depend more on Bortles than the Steelers.

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