The Jaguars will return to the place of their early frustrations this weekend. As frightening as Three Rivers Stadium once was for the Jaguars, it is now a place of fond memories.
Jacksonville and Pittsburgh played one of the great games in Three Rivers Stadium's 30-year history, when the Steelers won in overtime in 1997. Recently, that game was named the "Eighth-Greatest Game" in Three Rivers Stadium history."
Then, it was a crushing defeat for the Jaguars. Now, the Jaguars would like to return to those days, when the Jaguars were the NFL's fastest-rising franchise and the Steelers were the old-guard, defending AFC Central Division champions.
"I remember the game, I remember the physical play, the busted play on the goal line. I remember it all," coach Tom Coughlin said today as he talked about this Sunday's clash in Pittsburgh. It will be the final time the Jaguars will ever play in Three Rivers Stadium, where the Jaguars have played more times than in any stadium other than their own.
"In the early part of our franchise, the home team won. It was an extremely difficult place to play. Our win up there a year ago, I thought, was a very strong statement about the quality of our team, and we won it Steeler-like," he said, referring to strong defense and reliance on the running game.
"It is a difficult place to play. The fans are extremely knowledgeable. In the very beginning of our franchise, the Steelers were the team to beat if we were going to be successful," Coughlin added.
Temperatures in the 20's and snow showers are forecast for Sunday night's nationally-televised game, and the Jaguars haven't played a truly cold-weather game since a loss to the Jets in the Meadowlands in January of 1999.
"You talk about it but we can't duplicate it here," Coughlin said of the Pittsburgh weather conditions. "You have to be so focused that it isn't even a concern. That's the way the weather is in the north at this time of the year. You hope the players look at it as an energizing kind of thing."
Finding energy for their remaining six games of the season will be difficult for the Jaguars, who are out of postseason contention for the first time since their inaugural season, 1995.
"It's easy to be a front-runner," Coughlin said.
Of course, that is not the case this season, and nothing would seem to test the Jaguars' mettle more than a trip to Pittsburgh for a cold-weather game in Three Rivers Stadium.