Without question Jack Del Rio said things are tough.
Del Rio, in his ninth season as the Jaguars' head coach, said while there's no doubt the current five-game losing streak – the longest in his tenure – is difficult emotionally and whatever other way you can imagine, dwelling on the toughness is pointless.
His solution? Keep working, because there is no other way.
"You do what you have to do to continue to do the things you need to do," Del Rio said Monday afternoon, a day after a late Jaguars rally fell short in a 17-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa.
"I'm a human being. My deal right now is, 'Continue to keep the faith and continue to keep working hard, doing the things that are the right things and do them for the right reasons.' I will continue to do them."
The Jaguars, after winning their regular-season opener, have lost their last five games despite an improved defense that ranks No. 8 in the NFL. The offense has struggled throughout the season, and after producing 209 total yards Sunday, remains ranked 32nd in the NFL.
The Jaguars on Sunday allowed the Steelers 315 yards in the first half and trailed 17-3 at halftime. They rallied in the second half, allowing just 55 yards and pulling to within four points with four minutes remaining.
Still, the result was a loss and two-and-a-half game deficit in the AFC South – and another week of Del Rio being asked about keeping the team's morale high in difficult times.
"I'd say it's pretty much the same (answer)," Del Rio said. "There's only one way to do it. You have to stick together and you have to continue to do things you know are right – the preparation, the understanding of the tendencies of the opponent, the principal work that goes into it. There is a lot of volume to what you do to get yourself prepared for every ballgame.
"The things that we have been doing in that capacity, we've been doing very well. You don't want to let go of that part. You want to hang tight and continue to believe and stick together. Those are the things we're working on."
Del Rio said he sees no morale problems with the Jaguars.
"It's been a lot of fun to coach this group," Del Rio said. "It continues to be a team that works hard and has great work ethic. (Former Jaguars Head Coach) Tom (Coughlin) taught them how to work. When I got here, they knew how to work and this team continues to work.
"It has a strong work ethic and has the entire time I've been here. We come to work and we'll grind and we'll prepare. We'll do things that continue to be done to give yourself a chance."
Also on Monday, Del Rio:
*Said rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert continues to progress, and a reason he has struggled statistically has much to do with the Jaguars' opponents in recent weeks – the New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. "He's seeing some of the best defenses that are out there" Del Rio said of Gabbert, who has completed 60 of 123 passes for 717 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions in four starts. Del Rio said at least two third-down plays hurt Gabbert Sunday – a pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis that was a bit too high and another on which Gabbert found wide receiver Mike Thomas and Thomas "didn't accelerate the way Blaine anticipated him accelerating coming out of the break. We've got to find a way to make plays in those situations," Del Rio said.
*Said the coaching staff Monday discussed ways to get defensive end John Chick more involved in the defense. He said the trio of Matt Roth, Chick and Jeremy Mincey played well in the second half Sunday. Chick registered his second sack of the season and Roth had his third.
*Said rookie Cameron Bradfield played well in his first career start Sunday. Bradfield, who signed as a rookie free agent just before training camp, started at left tackle Sunday when the Jaguars were without Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton. "He went in there and did not look overwhelmed and gave us a fighting chance in an unusual set of circumstances," Del Rio said. "I thought he responded well."
*Said defensive end Aaron Kampman played solidly while playing about 16 snaps in his first game of the season. He had been out the first five games while returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that kept him out the final eight games last season.
*Discussed the decision to kick a field goal on 4th-and-6 with 4:17 remaining and trailing 17-10 rather than go for a first down. The Jaguars had the offense in the game ready to go for the first down, but Gabbert called timeout and Del Rio opted to kick a field goal. "We felt like the way the defense was playing right there, we'd be able to get a stop – take the points, get a stop, get the ball back," Del Rio said. "We did. Unfortunately, we allowed Big Ben (Roethlisberger) to fall forward for a yard more (and a first down) than he needed to take a little more time off the clock than we'd like. We make calls all throughout the game. That's one where you look back and certainly ask that question. When they go well, they don't get asked. We did what we thought was right."
*Said down and distance played into the decision to kick the field goal, too. The Jaguars faced 3rd-and-4 one play earlier, but a run by Deji Karim lost two yards. "When it was 3rd-and-4, we were thinking four downs there," Del Rio said. "We didn't expect a loss on 3rd-and-4. It came into question only because we took a negative play on 3rd-and-4." Asked if he cared to illuminate on sending the offense onto the field, then instead opting for a field goal, Del Rio said, "I could, but I don't care to. It's going to be questioned anyway. Go ahead and question it however you want."