JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2018 season, nine Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan – will break down the following day's Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The Pittsburgh Steelers at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They start fast. The Jaguars haven't been able to score early in recent games. If Jacksonville can get an early lead, the pressure will be on the Steelers to pass. After the Jaguars' success last season against Pittsburgh, forcing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to pass to win could create takeaways.
The Steelers will win if: They run the ball. Pittsburgh has been a well-oiled machine offensively. Roethlisberger had a perfect quarterback rating last week and running back James Conner has been outstanding. The Jaguars have also struggled covering tight ends, and the Steelers have two good ones.
As Ballou sees it: Steelers, 24-17. Revenge is a factor for Pittsburgh, which lost twice to the Jaguars last season. Although the Steelers have won five consecutive games and Jacksonville has lost five consecutive games, it won't erase what happened last season.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if: The Jaguars will win if they stay committed to the run as they did against Indianapolis, but average over 3.5 yards per carry – this combined with a defensive effort that mirrors last season's regular-season victory over Big Ben and the Steelers, in which the Jaguars' defense created a plethora of turnovers, scored on defense and gave Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles and the offense short fields.
The Steelers will win if: They play as they have for the last month and a half. They are balanced offensively, scoring at will with few turnovers. Their defense woke up after possibly the worst four weeks in franchise history to start the season. The Steelers rightly have an argument for the hottest team in the AFC.
As Boselli sees it: The Jaguars are due for a victory and have traditionally owned the Steelers. Big Ben will wake up in a cold sweat after nightmares of Jaguars defenders returning his multitude of interceptions for touchdowns. Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette will get his legs under him after his warmup performance versus the Colts and will rush for 157 yards and three touchdowns. This is the game that might just turn the tide of this season. The Jaguars will upset the Steelers, 24-21!
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They get Fournette going and hit Big Ben. Roethlisberger is a pocket passer - no RPOs and no bootlegs – so if the Jaguars hit him and frustrate him they have a chance.
The Steelers will win if: The Steelers will win if they protect Roethlisberger. And if they stuff Fournette and make Bortles pass on their terms.
As Frangie sees it: I really like the Jaguars' chances. Despite recent struggles, the Jaguars match up well with the Steelers and have confidence against them.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if: Their great players play like they are supposed to play and they win the turnover battle. Over the last number of games, the production of some of the Jaguars' "great" players hasn't been consistently where it needs to be or should be. If that continues, the Jaguars have no chance against a potent Steelers offense that is playing at a notch above where they played last season.
The Steelers will win if: They limit Fournette to similar numbers he had rushing last week against the Colts. The Steelers' defense is playing well – particularly against the run – with a physical front. That front also has rushed the passer, compiling 31 sacks – tied for the best in the NFL. The Jaguars have struggled – and they will continue to struggle to score without an effective running game as a foundation.
As Lageman sees it: Two different ways. My memory of last year's games tells me the Jaguars will find a way to win with great defense and a physical offense in front of the home crowd. My recent memories of five consecutive losses tells me a much different story: that the Jaguars will continue to struggle as poor individual performances, mounting injuries and turnovers have been too much to overcome.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: They force three turnovers. I'm out of formulas for the Jaguars to end up with more points on the scoreboard. Last week was pretty good. They held the ball for 35 minutes, Bortles didn't turn it over, Fournette had over 100 total yards … and the Jaguars still lost. I think this comes down to the Jaguars making some special plays on defense against the Steelers' high-powered offense.
The Steelers will win if: They control the lines of scrimmage. Pittsburgh can play some smashmouth football with Conner. The Jaguars have yet to show they will overpower a team physically. The Jaguars' offensive line gave up double-digit plays of zero or negative yardages versus the Colts. If Pittsburgh wins the point of attack on defense, it's going to be a long day here in Jacksonville for the Jaguars.
As Martineau sees it: I can see why people think the Jags might beat Pittsburgh, but that's assuming a Jaguars team we've expected all of 2018 shows up. We haven't seen enough evidence that will happen. We have seen flashes the last two games, but they need to consistently show it. I think this is a good football game, but I don't think Pittsburgh is the remedy for this team's woes. Pittsburgh will stay hot and win, 27-20.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: They pressure Roethlisberger into mistakes and Bortles connects on a big play. The Jaguars haven't forced sacks or turnovers as often as they did last season, but pressuring Roethlisberger into mistakes was the difference in both of their victories at Pittsburgh last season. It's a long shot to think it will happen again. It also may be a long shot to think Bortles will connect on long a touchdown for a second consecutive week, but those things will give the Jaguars a chance.
The Steelers will win if: They play consistently offensively. The Steelers realistically don't need to be special to win Sunday. If they do what they have done during a five-game winning streak – i.e., utilize the extensive weapons they have offensively and don't turn the ball over – that likely will be enough.
As Oehser sees it: This is a game the Jaguars can win. But the defense needs to create havoc and the offense needs to be efficient to keep pace with the Steelers' high-powered offense. Neither group has done that consistently lately.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: They force turnovers. It's how they won in Pittsburgh last October and it's how they beat the Steelers in the Divisional Playoff game in January. Let's face it: The Jaguars aren't playing good football right now. They have shown signs of life in recent weeks, but they haven't had enough on either side of the ball. Turnovers would make the difference and it's the only way I see them beating Pittsburgh.
The Steelers will win if: They don't turn the ball over. Roethlisberger was on fire against Carolina last week, the running game is rolling even without running back Le'Veon Bell and that defense is getting to the quarterback and forcing turnovers.
As Sexton sees it: This is the perfect opponent at the right time for a struggling Jaguars team. I get that the Steelers have won five in a row while the Jaguars have lost five consecutive games; it doesn't look good for the home team. The Jaguars need this kind of game – against a team that no one thinks they're capable of beating, against a team that will come in here looking to settle the score from last season. If there was ever a week for these guys to say, "Enough of this crap!" it's this week. I can't pick the Jaguars; they haven't shown me enough. But I wouldn't drop dead of a sudden heart attack if they somehow found a way to win.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if: They have a formula familiar to last season's games against the Steelers: Take the ball away on defense and score a defensive touchdown. Stealing possessions is key since the Steelers' offense is filled with weapons and rolling.
The Steelers will win if: They clog the running game for the Jaguars. Fournette averaged 2.2 yards per carry last week, but the Jaguars committed to it by handing it to him 24 times. Given an opening, Fournette can score from anywhere on the field – and the Steelers know that first-hand.
As Shadrick sees it: The Steelers are in first place in the AFC North and trending up on five-game winning streak. The Jaguars are in last place in the AFC South and trending down on a five-game losing streak. The Steelers are scoring over 35 points per game in the current streak. The Jaguars are not. The Jaguars have communication issues among veteran starters on defense and an offense trying to overcome injuries and find consistency entering Week 11. It is the Jaguars' last stand, it is an important home game, and we've seen stranger things happen – but it is simply a difficult matchup for the Jaguars.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The Jaguars will win if: They play a complete game. The Jaguars' defense gave up 29 points in the first half against the Colts but played lights out in the second half. If the Jaguars' defense can stick to its scheme against a talented Steelers offense throughout the entire game, the Jaguars have a chance.
The Steelers will win if: They can confuse the Jaguars' defense. Miscommunication and busted coverages have been a major issue for the Jaguars defense at times this season. Roethlisberger is a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback who will find mistakes and expose them given the opportunity. The Jaguars defense needs to play mistake-free football on Sunday when playing against as team with as many offensive weapons as the Steelers.
As Sullivan sees it: As Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack said earlier this week, this is a game with talented players on both teams despite the Jaguars' record. Whoever can win the turnover battle can win this game. Momentum will be huge this week. The Jaguars will need all the momentum they can get and are going to have to pound the ball on the offense and stick to their coverage on defense to give themselves a chance.