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Jags, Steelers know each other


The Jaguars were to conduct a light practice on Tuesday. The Steelers took the day off, which would tend to indicate they spent a little time last week preparing for the Jaguars.

"I would think," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "We certainly spent time on them."

Practice? Who needs it? The Jaguars and Steelers are very knowledgeable of each other. They played against each other just three weeks ago on the same field on which they'll play this Saturday night and, frankly, how much more do you need to know about this game than it's likely to be physical?

"We're matched up against a great organization. We're expecting a tough, hard-fought football game … Saturday night under the lights," Del Rio said.

In the feature game of the wild-card weekend, the Jaguars and Steelers will meet at Heinz Field for the second time in three weeks. The Jaguars scored a bruising, 29-22 win in Pittsburgh on Dec. 16, in a game played in wind and cold and snow. The forecast for this Saturday night is tame, by comparison.

The storylines of this game are many, headed by this: In the 75-year history of the Steelers, they have never lost at home twice to the same team in the same season. The Jaguars, of course, will try to become the first.

"They make great stories," Del Rio said of that tidbit of information, "but they have little impact on the game."

The major impact in this game will be determined by the Steelers defense, which finished number one in the league in overall yardage, but struggled mightily in the final four games of the regular season. The Steelers allowed 28.5 points per game during that four-game span and were gashed for a Heinz Field-record 224 yards rushing by the Jaguars.

"I'm not sure I put a lot of stock in that stuff," Del Rio said of the Steelers' late-season collapse, during which the Steelers lost three of their final four games. "When you put on the tape, you see talented players. It's going to be a big challenge for us."

What will Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau do differently this time? Can the Steelers stop the Jaguars?

"I expect them to put a plan together and come ready to compete. We'll do the same," said Del Rio, careful not to tip his expectations in the way of Steelers scheme changes.

Del Rio told reporters on Tuesday that middle linebacker Mike Peterson would not play on Saturday. Peterson is out with a broken hand that required surgery. He has not been placed on injured reserve and the possibility remains that Peterson could play in a later playoff game.

"Daryl Smith is a good football player. His most natural position is middle linebacker. I think he has the Pro Bowl in his future," Del Rio said of Peterson's replacement.

Rookie Justin Durant has taken Smith's place at weakside linebacker and has already distinguished himself as a quality defender. "He can really run and hit," Del Rio said of Durant.

Meanwhile, there are reports in the Atlanta media that the Falcons have interest in interviewing Jaguars Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith for the team's head coaching job. Del Rio said he has yet to be contacted by the Falcons to ask permission to speak to Smith.

"At some point, those types of things are going to occur," Del Rio said of having assistant coaches interview for other jobs.

The Jaguars aren't likely to suffer any kind of a distraction for Saturday night's encounter in Pittsburgh. It's everything a player, coach or fan could want in a first-round playoff game.

"You can walk out onto the field and feel it in the air; smell it, almost taste it," Del Rio said. "It's football the way we grew up watching it."

It's also the kind of football that was expected of the Jaguars when this season began. Expectations were that this would be a playoff team. It is.

"We thought going into and coming out of camp that we would have a good football team. We feel we have been a good football team the last three years," Del Rio said.

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