The sky seems to be falling in Pittsburgh these days, as the team comes into the playoff game with the Jags Saturday as banged up as can be, playing poorly on each side of the ball, and according to most will be run all over by the Jaguars. Not so fast. The Steelers are wounded, but are not out of it, and still have a shot to make some things happen vs the Jags. Here are are five keys that the Steelers need to beat the Jags Saturday:
1. Tackle Better – This has been a huge issue with the team the past few weeks, as they have totally gotten away from making sure tackles on ball carriers and pass catchers. Both Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor broke numerous tackles in the first game, and gained tons of extra yards. Your going to allow yards on the ground, that cannot be stopped, but wrapping up the ball carriers will limit the amount of yards you allow in the end.
2. Feed off the Crowd – The crowd at Heinz Field is always into the game as long as they have something good to cheer about, and if the Steelers can make some plays early, the crowd could make life tough for David Garrard and the Jags offense. Plus the Steelers defense seems to feed off the crowd, and just that extra push can make all the difference in this tight game.
3. Protect Ben – Last time they played it was five sacks, and could have been more if Roethlisberger was not as big and strong as he is. Saturday they have to do whatever they can to make sure that Big Ben stays on his feet, even if it means him making his reads quicker, or maybe throwing more quick screens or flare out passes. Ben has taken a beating too often this year, and against this team they have to keep him upright.
4. If the Running Game Stalls: Pass – The weak point on the Jags defense is their secondary, so if the weather allows, and word is it will, throw caution to the wind and let Roethlisberger win the game for you with his arm. Rasheen Mathis and Brian Williams can be thrown on for the most part, and the Steelers should look to take some shots downfield with Santonio Holmes and in the middle of the field with Heath Miller. This could be a game where if Najeh Davenport can’t run, Ben could be throwing 30+ times.
5. Limit the Poor Play on Special Teams – Bill Cowher or Mike Tomlin, no matter the Steelers coverage units on special teams are still not very good. First round pick Lawrence Timmons is making plays on coverage lately, but for some reason they still are allowing way to many long returns. Giving the Jags a short field is not going to help matters, but getting them to go 75-80 yards instead of 65-60 will.