Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- Jacksonville has a chance to build on their strong start to the season and head into their bye week with a 6-2 record and comfortable lead in the AFC South.
- Pittsburgh has been one of the most up and down teams in the league but enters this game a half game behind Baltimore in the AFC North.
- Both teams have top 10 defenses but the Pittsburgh offense has been disappointing and the Jacksonville offense has been inconsistent.
- Pittsburgh’s secondary has given up big games to opposing wide receivers on several occasions this season.
- The Jaguars will have a week of rest after this game, while the Steelers have to turn around and play again on Thursday night.
How Jacksonville Will Try To Win ::
The Jaguars have a Week 9 bye and will travel to Pittsburgh this week with the opportunity to have control of their division as they head into the second half of the season. The Jaguars have had an eventful season already, playing two consecutive games in London and riding a four game winning streak into Week 8. While last season’s AFC South title and Divisional Round playoff run were sparked primarily by Trevor Lawrence and the offense, this year’s Jaguars team has been led by an improved defense and running game. Lawrence has certainly not performed poorly, but the Jaguars defense has used its speed and aggressiveness to swallow up opponents and control games.
The Jaguars offense ranks fifth in pass rate over expectation (PROE) and once again ranks among the top 10 teams scoring. Jacksonville’s skill group is a very good unit with Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, and Zay Jones making up an underrated receiving corps, Evan Engram performing as one of the top receiving tight ends in the league, and Travis Etienne ranking among the league leaders in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Pittsburgh’s defense is coming off a game where they dominated the line of scrimmage against the Rams and came up with a big road victory. The Steelers play man coverage at the seventh highest rate but notably play very little “press” coverage, instead giving cushion to opposing wide receivers. This is particularly important for this week because Calvin Ridley has struggled historically against press coverage and has been maddeningly inconsistent this season. Pittsburgh has given up huge games this season to Puka Nacua, Nico Collins, Davante Adams, and Brandon Aiyuk. While slot receiver Christian Kirk has been the star of the show in recent weeks, this could be a Ridley week if he is able to get free releases and create separation. The Jaguars rank 29th in PFF run blocking grade and while they’ve had success this season, and the Steelers defensive metrics don’t jump off the page in that area, we can confidently expect that the bulk of Jacksonville’s offensive production will need to be generated through the air. For what it’s worth, the Steelers have given up 10 first quarter points twice this year and lost both of those games by significant margins, while in their other four games, they led or were tied after one quarter and went on to win. Jacksonville would be best served in this game to come out swinging and put the Steelers on their heels rather than playing into their hands with a slow paced slugfest.