JACKSONVILLE – Telvin Smith figures motivation works both ways.
The subject in the Jaguars' locker room as expected on Wednesday again turned to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who last week expressed a desire to play the Jaguars in the playoffs.
Smith, the Jaguars' All-Pro weak-side linebacker, on Wednesday echoed the sentiments of many of his teammates – that considering Roethlisberger's five-interception performance against the Jaguars in mid-October it only makes sense he would want a rematch. Smith on Wednesday added this:
That Roethlisberger won't be the only player ready for Sunday.
"He's definitely right now feeling that he's got to prove something, but I'm telling you: We do, too," Smith said as the AFC South Champion Jaguars (11-6) prepared to play the AFC North Champion Steelers (13-3) at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
The Jaguars in October beat Pittsburgh, 30-9, a game that was by far the Steelers' most one-sided loss of the season.
"We're going to get their best shot," said Jaguars safety Barry Church, who – like Smith – returned an interception for a touchdown against the Steelers in October. "They're going about saying the last game was a fluke … this, that and a third. We'll get their best, whatever they can throw at us, and hopefully we'll be up to the task."
Smith, one of the Jaguars' most vocal leaders, said the Jaguars have more motivation beyond a chance to beat the Steelers for a second time this season.
"Now, because we're getting closer to the end of the season, people are starting to see it as every game being more of an opportunity or more on the line," Smith said. "But it's the same as when we started the season. We're fighting for the same thing. Yeah, we've accomplished some goals along the way, but the season's not over. There's still work to be done."
Smith was asked if it bothered him that Steelers players may already be thinking of a potential rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game between the Steelers and New England Patriots.
"Not at all," Smith said. "A lot of times when guys get in those situations and you start to feel yourself like that, you do that. I've been on teams when we looked at teams and said, 'OK, we know what's going to happen this week; let's move on to the next week.' It's common on the ladder like that – on the pedestal, I should say.
"The thing we've learned about society is when you grab the stigma of being somebody or something of importance or something great, it sticks with you. That's what's happening now. It's sticking with them. We're going to continue to work, prepare this week and get ready to go play Sunday."
Also on Wednesday:
*Smith, asked about the luxury of having All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey to "take away a side of the field," said he believes the Jaguars have two such players. Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye was named second-team All-Pro this season. "We can eliminate two [sides of the field]," Smith said. "We can eliminate two and say, 'Take your best shot.' That's why I feel we're so confident because we say, 'Every position, take your shot.'''
*Church on a potential one-on-one battle between Ramsey and Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, the two players considered by many observers the NFL's best players at their respective positions: "It's going to be unbelievable. I'm just glad I'm on the field for it. They both like to talk a lot of trash and they're going to be matched up with each other the whole game, so it's going to be a great one. We'll see who gets the better of the two. My money's on Jalen." …
*Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee said his ankle has improved significantly since this time a week ago. Lee, who led the Jaguars in receptions in the regular season, missed the last two regular-season games with a high-ankle sprain. He played in a Wild Card victory over Buffalo Sunday but was targeted just once without a reception. "I'm good," Lee said. "I feel better this week. I had the opportunity to practice today and that's the biggest thing. Last week I didn't have the opportunity to practice at the beginning of the week. It's stronger in that area for sure." …
*Rookie linebacker Blair Brown sustained an ankle injury in practice, saying in the locker room Wednesday following practice he was scheduled to undergo an MRI. "It's so disappointing," he said. "I had a great chance of doing some big things this game." Brown played 19 plays this past Sunday against Buffalo when an abdomen injury forced veteran middle linebacker Paul Posluszny from the game.
*Brown was among six Jaguars players listed as practicing limited Wednesday, with cornerback Jalen Ramsey (Achilles), fullback Tommy Bohanon (knee), wide receiver Jaydon Mickens (hamstring), tight end Marcedes Lewis (ankle) and defensive tackle Abry Jones (ankle) also listed as limited. Quarterback Blake Bortles (right wrist) and linebacker Donald Payne (quadriceps) were listed as working full while Posluszny, Smith (ankle) and cornerback Aaron Colvin (illness) did not practice. …