Here they go again. They did it twice last season and they'll face each other for the first time this season on Sunday night at "The Jack," and would it surprise anyone if a second game between the two teams this season is in the future?
The Jaguars and Steelers play great football games; memorable football games. The best part about those games, of course, is that the Jaguars almost always win them. The Jaguars own the Steelers. There's no other way to put it. They beat 'em here and they beat 'em there. They beat 'em in the regular season and they beat 'em in the postseason.
If there's a nagging thought about this Sunday's meeting it's only that the situation looks too good to be true. The Steelers are on a short week, coming off a body-bag game against the Ravens that has left the Steelers' roster so crippled that, compared to what Jack Del Rio describes as his team's "early storm" of injuries, the Steelers have been swept away by a torrent of hurts.
The Steelers will be without Willie Parker, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Rashard Mendenhall, Kendall Simmons and others. The starting running back is likely to be journeyman Mewelde Moore.
This game is eerily similar to last year's playoff encounter, in which the Steelers were without Parker, Aaron Smith, Marvel Smith and others, leaving the Steelers to start a practice squad player at left tackle in a "Big Ben vs. the world" kind of encounter.
The Jaguars will win, right? Yeah, they should. Everything is in their favor, including a home crowd that gets up for this game like none other. If only the Jags could play the Steelers at home every week, huh?
There is, however, this one little thing the Steelers have going for them that they didn't have the last time these two teams faced each other. This year's Steelers have a defense on the rise. They have a swarming, blitzing, playmaking defense that features young, star linebackers and a healthy Troy Polamalu at safety.
It's a defense that is fourth against the run, third against the pass and number two overall in the league. It's a defense that is third in the league in sacks per pass play. This defense even scores points.
Hey, it's all they have, but it's daunting.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Steelers.
- Be efficient on offense—The Jaguars must protect the quarterback and the ball.
- Make the kicks—Josh Scobee has done a great job of that so far this season. This is likely to be a field goal game.
- Sack Big Ben—Why not? Everybody else has.
- Deny big plays—The Steelers wide receivers are to be feared. Santonio Holmes is a big-play, run-after-the-catch receiver who is greatly underrated.
- Cover the tight end—Houston's Owen Daniels ravaged the Jaguars last Sunday and the Steelers' Heath Miller did it to the Jaguars last season.
- Run the ball—Any kind of success on the ground will deflate the Steelers' proud defense.
- Block that kick—Steelers punter Mitch Berger is methodical and slow into his kicks. He's gonna get a face full of Jaguars on Sunday.
- Go ahead, show 'em—This is the game Jacksonville uses to puff out its chest, stick out its chin and show the nation how much it loves its Jaguars. Well, it's that time again. The nation will be watching.
- Use your tickets—If you don't, you know who will.
- Start fast—The Steelers have a bye next week. As sore as they are from Monday's game, their attention might turn to their week's rest, should they fall behind early.