While the Steelers first two games at home were more like first round knockouts, Sunday’s 17-13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars was a little more like a 12-round win by majority decision.
The Steelers survived a gutsy effort by rookie QB Blaine Gabbert, and played more not to lose over the final 20 or so minutes as the Jags tried to comeback from a 17-3 halftime deficit.
The win didn’t come without some casualties, as the black and gold lost guard Doug Legursky during the win, and then in the fourth quarter safety Troy Polamalu left when he was knocked in the head stopping a third-down run by Jags running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew, who has had huge games against the Steelers in the past, rushed for 96 yards for the Jaguars (1-5), who have dropped five straight to match the franchise’s longest losing streak in a decade.
Rashard Mendenhall, who didn’t play last week with a hamstring injury, ran for 146 yards and a touchdown, also putting up a career-high 68-yard run that set up a Steelers field goal that made it 17-0.
The Steelers looked like they were going to run away with it in the first half, leading by 17 and outplaying the Jags in every way. They outgained the Jags 315 to 68 in the first 30 minutes, and Ben Roethlisberger was 11-for-18 for 181 yards with a score in the first half.
The Jacksonville rally started in the third quarter as rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert took the team on their longest drive of the year, a 17-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a TD pass to Jason Hill that cut the Steelers lead from 17-3 to 17-10.
As the Steelers offense stayed mostly stuck in the mud in the second half, the Jags drove down the field and Josh Scobee kicked a 45-yard field goal with 4:17 left to make it 17-13.
The Steelers were able to scratch out a first down, but gave the ball back to Gabbert and the Jags with 1:01 left at their own 23. Brett Keisel got a huge sack, and the rookie’se last-gasp attempt in the end zone was knocked down by William Gay to secure the win.
Gabbert ended 12 of 26 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown, and was sacked five times.
The win over the Jags puts the Steelers at 4-2, and they are 4-2 in the conference, and 3-0 at home. They head to Arizona next Sunday to play the Cardinals at 4:15pm.