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Singular focus


At this point, Maurice Jones-Drew said the focus is singular.

That's why whenever Jones-Drew was asked about the past throughout this week, he didn't discuss it much. Not that his memories of Heinz Field, where the Jaguars will play this week, aren't fond, and not that playing the Pittsburgh Steelers doesn't have historical meaning.

It's just that to the Jaguars and Jones-Drew any such talk was periphery because what the Jaguars need this week is as obvious as it has been elusive in recent weeks:

A victory. Anyhow. Anyway.

"We've got to figure out a way to win," Jones-Drew said this week as the Jaguars (1-4) prepared to play the Steelers (3-2) at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa., Sunday at 1 p.m.

Such has been the theme around the Jaguars all week.

Sure, there are other storylines:

 An improving defense that has held four of five opponents under 300 yards. An improving young quarterback. An offense that's struggling, averaging just under 12 points per game. The release of a struggling punter and the signing of a new one.

All were topics around the Jaguars' locker room this past week, as was the task of playing a Steelers team that despite the absence of linebacker James Harrison still features safety Troy Polamalu and still is ranked No. 2 in the NFL in total defense.

"I mean they have guys that have been in that scheme for 10 years," said Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who is 0-3 as a starter and who has completed 48 of 97 passes for 608 yards and three touchdowns with an interception.

"I think it's (linebacker) James Farrior's 15th year in the league, a lot of guys are nine-plus, so they're a good, veteran defense, fundamentally sound and they've got playmakers. Ike Taylor on the outside, Troy [Palamalu] –these guys are high, high-level football players."

The same is true of the Steelers offensively, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger – despite playing on an injured right ankle – throwing five touchdown passes in a victory over Tennessee this past Sunday.

"I saw they were talking about last week his ankle; there was a question about whether he'd play or not and I said, 'Watch, Big Ben will play great this week,'" Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio said. "He just seems to play well in those circumstances, has throughout his career. He's a big guy, a strong guy, good quarterback and they're surrounding him with weapons. He's got some weapons there."

Jones-Drew, for his part, said the game for the Jaguars is less about the opponent and more about something more immediate: themselves.

Despite a 1-4 record and a four-game losing streak, the Jaguars have been competitive in three of their four losses, losing fourth-quarter leads at Carolina and at home against Cincinnati this past Sunday. Against New Orleans in Week 4, the Jaguars were within a score much of the second half of a 23-10 loss.

"It's tough," Jones-Drew said. "We've been in so many games. Besides the Jets game (a 32-3 Week 2 loss) we've been in every one and to not pull them out is tough. We just have to continue to work. It's just tough to talk about because you're there all the time. We're right there.

"The door is there, we've got to kick it open. We just can't, trying to wait for somebody to answer, we've got to go and kick it open and that's what we're going to do."

The Jaguars, after finishing 28th in the NFL in total defense last season, rank eighth this season, and they have held four of five opponents under their average yards gained. Offensively, however, the Jaguars are 32nd in the NFL and are averaging just under 12 points a game.

Their season-high points: 20 last week against the Bengals, at the time the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense.

"I think we made some strides last week, definitely against the number one defense," Jones-Drew said. "We moved the ball well on them, made some great plays, but we had some plays that we obviously want to take back. We just have to continue to work and execute."

The work, Jones-Drew and others said, will continue. Del Rio has said throughout this season he likes the approach of the players, and that this is a team that's doing things the right way. That means continuing to work, and players said no question that continues.

The question: getting that work to translate into success, something that needs to happen sooner than later.

"Our mentality is the same every week," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "If we're 0-5 or 5-0, we need a win. That's the good thing about this team. It's why we don't get too down on ourselves if we lose. We have the end in mind, that we're all on the same page. Every week is a must-win for us.

"We know we're still in it. We're two games behind and we have a good team. We just have to jell the right way. We're on the cusp."

Said Jones-Drew, "We're going to continue to work hard. No one in here is pointing fingers; no one is doing none of that. We're just going to keep working. It's not one person doing wrong. For a team to win everybody has to do everything right, so we understand that. We've just got to keep working."

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