What to Expect from the Jacksonville Jaguars Against the Pittsburgh Steelers
The initial concern for the Jaguars, and the most immediate, is the ever-heating seat on which Jack Del Rio finds himself. Teams can respond in numerous ways to a coach on the hot seat, and Del Rio's seat has never been hotter.
Coming off of four straight defeats, two of which the Jaguars gave away with fourth-quarter collapses, one wonders how the team will respond to the uncertainty surrounding their head coach. It's unsure how Del Rio is thought of inside the Jaguars locker room, but we're likely to find out exactly what the team thinks by result of their Week 6 effort.
Will the Jaguars fight to help Del Rio keep his job, or will there be the same seemingly-complacent effort that has allowed the Panthers and Bengals to come from behind and steal victories from the Jaguars?
At 1-4, the statistics say that Jacksonville is a bottom-rung team with a poor offense. While this may be partially true, statistics don't tell the entire tale.
The Jaguars, without the losses to Cincinnati and Carolina, would be tied at the top of the division with Houston and Tennessee at 3-2. Given their Week 1 victory against the Titans, the Jaguars would mathematically lead the division.
So, what can we expect of this wildly inconsistent team? Who are the Jaguars? Are they the team that, defensively, seems dominant at times, or are they the team that packed it in against the Jets in a 32-3 Week 2 embarrassment?
Nearly a month-and-a-half into the season, we still don't know.
Against the Steelers, The Jaguars are promised to face a blitzing and frenzied attack by Dick LeBeau's defense, who is the No. 1 ranked passing defense in the NFL. Although the Steelers defense is seemingly aging and are missing James Harrison, they still have plenty enough talent to pressure Blaine Gabbert and bottle Maurice Jones-Drew.
This game can't be won solely on defense by the Jaguars, no matter how well Paul Posluszny and crew perform.
Despite numerous inspiring efforts by Jacksonville's defense, the offense has failed to convert scoring opportunities into touchdowns and are the league's second-lowest scoring offense, with just 11.8 points scored per contest.
Blaine Gabbert had arguably the best of his three career starts last week against Cincinnati, and has to up the ante once again against Pittsburgh. The Steelers are well aware of Maurice Jones-Drew, as the Jaguars' star has tortured the Steelers defense in the past.
They won't allow Jones-Drew to beat them again.
The Jaguars will likely have Aaron Kampman back this week, which will add another dimension to their pass rush. The importance of having Kampman back, however, isn't in the likelihood that he is dominant so much as the fact he adds another body for rotation among Jacksonville's front.
While the Jaguars have rushed the passer well throughout the first half in most games, lack of depth has led to Matt Roth and Jeremy Mincey regressing in effectiveness throughout the latter portion of most games.
Look for the Jaguars to mix Roth, Mincey and Kampman in the lineup, and attempt to press the line of scrimmage and make Ben Roethlisberger move in the pocket more than he would like.
Roethlisberger will play his second straight game with a foot injury that had him noticeably limping in last week's victory over Tennessee.
The Jaguars' only chance is to take the Pittsburgh crowd out of the game early with big defensive plays. The Steelers won't allow Jones-Drew to break free, and the Jaguars simply have no threat in their ensemble of special teamers.
As we say each week without seeing evidence of improvement, Jacksonville must have a reliable wide receiver target step up. This team is 1-4 because it lacks the ability to separate from defensive backs, thus having Blaine Gabbert throwing into the smallest windows possible.
Del Rio is on the chopping block, and he will likely play with the lineup to find players that might be able to save him. Look for Chastin West to get more involved in the passing game, and for Jacksonville to target Marcedes Lewis earlier than has been the case in the past few weeks.
This is the last chance for Jacksonville. Without upsetting the Steelers, they fall to 1-5 and face the Ravens and Texans in consecutive weeks before a bye week that will likely begin with an interim coach.
It's truly do or die in Jacksonville. If they don't realize their potential in Pittsburgh, it simply won't happen this year and change will ensue.
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