We shouldn't expect the Jaguars' defense to continue its eye-popping run of futility. Surrendering 38 points per game is dismal, to put it mildly. There will be a stronger Jaguars' defensive effort in this game, but it's still not strong enough of a defense to hold Pittsburgh down for four quarters. The trifecta of Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will get theirs in this game and the Steelers could surpass the 30-point mark. The Jaguars' offense will need to match that step for step, but it doesn't seem likely.
We hate giving Dick LeBeau any kind of credit, but there's a reason rookie quarterbacks have, by and large, struggled against Pittsburgh's defense over the last decade. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville's rookie passer, will have similar struggles. He's going to do some good things and his shorter passing has been impressive. He's going to make mistakes, though, and the Steelers' defense will be ready to pounce on them. Stealing a few possessions will be critical for both teams, and the Jaguars are more likely to give a few away than the Steelers.
For as inconsistent a team as the Steelers are, they do have some high-end capability as well as their low end. If last week was a low-end performance, which it was, their current streak seems to indicate a high-end rebound will follow. Tampa Bay pulled out a victory based on endurance late in the game. Pittsburgh can jump all over one of the league's worst first-half defenses and pace themselves to be able to finish off this game; something they couldn't do last week due to early failures and inadequacies.
The Steelers can feast on teams that perform in only one phase of offensive production. The Jaguars are one of the league's worst rushing teams. They won't be able to establish the run in this game, and the Steelers will use that strategic advantage wisely. Focusing mainly on the pass allows them to be more aggressive and to key off of the reads they see from the offense. Expect them to jump more routes today, play more aggressively and, while they're going to see something of a challenge from the rookie quarterback, this defense is designed to rip into teams that either cannot run or throw the ball consistently.
In the Trenches
There's a reason the Jaguars courted restricted free-agent center Alex Mack this offseason. Luke Bowanko is no Alex Mack. Luke Joeckel isn't representative of a quality NFL left tackle. The Jaguars are doing a decent job in pass protection but not a great job, and their run-blocking has been poor. The Steelers are capable of winning the line of scrimmage in this game, and it may come down to their ability to support the notion the Jaguars can be made into a one-dimensional team simply by whipping the guy across the line from them. This is a big prove-it game for "Wreck It" Cam Heyward, fresh off a $22,000 fine for yelling at an official. Expect him to channel his rage into his play today.