The Jacksonville Jaguars have already taken care of business against the Steelers this season on the road, but now it’s do or die as the two teams meet in the AFC Wild Card game on Saturday night. Jacksonville is the team that no one wants to play, but they are playing a wounded animal in the Steelers that are banged up. So with that, here are five keys that the Jags need to again beat the Steelers Saturday:
1. Control the Time of Possession – Last time they played the Jags had the ball for an amazing 20-play TD drive in the third quarter, and held the ball overall for 38 minutes. Running the ball and playing ball control with David Garrard will be key in keeping the ball away from the Steelers. Pittsburgh was beaten up last time allowing 244 rushing yards vs the Jags, and if they can duplicate something near that again, they will control the ball enough to win.
2. Be Careful in the Passing Game – David Garrard has had an outstanding year, throwing 18 TD’s and just three picks, but its a new season in the playoffs, and most first-year starters in their first playoff game are not very good. The Steelers still have a solid pass rush with the amount of blitzing that Dick LeBeau likes to do even bringing corners and safeties up. If Garrard is getting pressured, better to throw the ball away then try to force it in and make a bad mistake that could give the Steelers an easy score.
3. Get to Roethlisberger and Tackle Him – One thing that makes Ben Roethlisberger so good is that he is tough to bring down. The Jags did get to him five times in the first meeting, but he was still able to escape a few times and even made one outstanding play to flip it to Willie Parker on a drive that resulted in a game-tying TD drive. Getting to him is great and pressuring him, but in the end, you have to tackle him or he is going to keep plays alive with his size and strength.
4. Make Sure the Steelers Can’t Run – One reason Pittsburgh was dangerous early in the year was they would get off with Willie Parker, then get you with play action. Now with Parker gone, the Jags need to make sure not to allow big back Najeh Davenport to gain positive yards on more carries than not. He’s a back that won’t take off for 50-60 yards, but can get you 3-4 yards in the trenches. If Davenport gives the Steelers a solid run attack, their play-action will be in effect, which will be to the Jags disadvantage.
5. Don’t Panic – The Jags are the favorite here, and they should play like it. With that, if the Steelers start fast, which could happen being at home with a vocal crowd, the Jags simply have to play their game and get back to what got them there – a solid run game, mistake free in the passing game, and solid defense. Jacksonville right now is the better team based on the injuries and how the teams have played, so they need to play like it and not allow the Steelers to get momentum and run with it.