Wild Card Weekend 1/5/08: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

mike-tomlin.jpg
Signature game early in Tomlin’s career

Game 2: Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville. 8pm

Three weeks ago the Jacksonville Jaguars shredded the Pittsburgh Steelers Steel Curtain behind the running of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew as the Jags shocked the Steelers 29-22 in the muck of Heinz Field. Today, not only does rookie coach Mike Tomlin go for his first playoff win as a head coach – he is also looking for revenge.

This summer, coach Jack Del Rio made the personnel move that will define his coaching legacy when he replaced franchise quarterback Brian Leftwich–who had been struggling the past two seasons with backup David Garrard. Garrard, Del Rio and the Jags have been rolling ever since.

Spearheading the Jags attack is a running game that resembles the Steelers of a year or two ago. Led by Fred Taylor (avg.111 yds. the last five games) who has found the fountain of youth this season to eclipse 1,000 yards for the season and 10,000 in his career. His counterpart Jones-Drew finishes what Taylor starts. His bowling ball frame and low center of gravity make him hard to bring down. Jones-Drew is a threat on special teams as a returner as well.

The Jaguars have a receiver by committee which suits them just fine. In the first meeting, the Jags had success passing on first down. Look for more of the same today. Reggie Williams is Garrard’s primary target and if it gets tight, look for Williams to make a big play. Ernest Willford and Dennis Northcutt have been reliable all season and should contribute as well.

Defensively, Jacksonville is as stout against the run as any team in the league. John Henderson, Rob Meir and Grady Jackson are as big as they come and they should have success stopping a wounded Steeler running attack. This will only improve the play of the back seven. The Jags have enough depth in the secondary to deal with Pittsburgh’s passing attack.

The Steelers have to find a way to run the ball without burning out Najeh Davenport. Make no mistake, losing Willie Parker for the playoffs is the one thing the Steelers could not afford. The Steelers will go with the three-headed monster of Davenport, Gary Russell and Veron Haynes to try and mix speed and power into the rushing attack.

Pittsburgh looks to be healthy at receiver and Ben Roethlisberger will be looking for them today. Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington can all cause problems, but I think the key in the passing game will be tight end Heath Miller. If he can get into the middle of the field, he should open up the sidelines for Holmes who loves to go deep.

Defensively, the Steelers will have to find away to corral the running game, they will miss Aaron Smith in pass rushing situations and if Troy Polamalu isn’t 100%, the secondary is in for a long day.

Deep down, I want this game for Tomlin and the Steelers but the loss of Parker will be too much to overcome.

Jags 24 – Steelers 17

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18 Responses to “Wild Card Weekend 1/5/08: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars”

  1. I was torn…I really like Tomlin……but I just love the Jaguars this year. That Maurice Jones-Drew/Fred Taylor combo is sweet…..and watching all 345 lbs of Big GraVy Jackson get in that backfield is just some nice karma for the hapless Falcons that cut him like he was on the practice squad in mid-season.

  2. Roethlisberger’s interceptions are killing the steelers right now.

    Jacksonville looks like the better team today, just like they did a few weeks ago when these two teams clashed.

  3. Good game!

  4. YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!! Nice run Garrard!!!

  5. Miranda,

    How do you like the Jags chances now?

  6. Weeellllll…………..my gut says the Pats will win….but I so want the Jags to knock them out, I really really do.

  7. Miranda,

    They have a tough defense. If the defense can put presser on Brady, then they may have a chance. Maybe. The defense has to play better in the second half. The Pats are a good second half team.

  8. Sorry ladies……..the game won’t even be close.

  9. If the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to beat New England, there can’t be any squandered 18-point leads in the fourth quarter, with both sides of the ball going ice cold for nearly the final third of the game. There can’t be costly Garrard interceptions down the stretch, or the suddenly shoddy pass defense that Jacksonville’s secondary displayed during the Steelers’ big comeback. It’s going to take the Jaguars best possible game, and not the 40-minute version we saw Saturday night.

  10. Mark,

    The Pats have struggled against teams not even close to being as good as the Jags. The key to keeping the game close is to put pressure on Brady. If the Jags can do that then they have a chance. Keep in mind the weather may be bad. I think that favors the Jags and their running game.

  11. Reggie,

    I agree with you 100%

  12. Jacksonville has to throw to beat the Patriots. The Patriots are healthy across the front line and will be prepared for Taylor and Jones-Drew. It doesn’t mean they’ll shut them both down – but I doubt they average more than 4 YPC. It should be tough sledding. I’ll be rooting for J’ville, even though they’ve dispatched my boys with regularity.

    Garrard’s gonna have to make 10-15 great throws.

  13. I would love the irony if the Florida team went up to New England in a cold windy game, and had the team built to win that kind of game.

    The two teams most suited to beating NE in New England, are the Jags and the Chargers. The team best suited for beating NE in a dome are the Colts. I think New England weather suits the two warm climate teams better than it suits the home team. Jax would love nothing more than a blizzard on game day, running the ball down their throats and making it a ball control game. Though I have no idea what the 7 day forecast is for that game.

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