Friday, January 04, 2008

Jacksonville's Top Ten

Generally speaking, Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic doesn't get caught up in individual/one-on-one matchups as it relates to the outcome of a game. Unlike baseball, football is actually a team game with component parts (i.e. players) working hand-in-hand to create conditions that enhance the likelihood of winning. So, rather than "player X has to beat player Y," we tend to focus on fundamentals (e.g. turnovers, line surge, "gap integrity" -- a phrase that is new to us, and which we love!). In that spirit we offer up the ten things that the Jaguars have to do to beat the Steelers, as presented at Jaguars.com; and it's presented here because most of these ten things are also important to a Steelers win as well.

1. Hold onto the ball—One interception nearly cost the Jaguars the last game. Ball security is job one.

2. Rush the passer—It’s likely to be all Ben all the time, and that puts a premium on the pass-rush.

3. Run the ball—The Steelers will load up against it. If the Jaguars are able to run with any semblance of the success they had against the Steelers on Dec. 16, the Jaguars could win comfortably. Note: This is THE KEY to the game for the Steelers. In an interview on NFL Radio on Thursday, the Steelers "have to control the clock . . . and keep the [Jacksonville] defense on the field." In the first half of their first meeting Jacksonville led at the half 10-7, and rushed for 98 yards. As bad as that was, Jacksonville came out with their first possession of the second half and reeled-off a 74 yard, 20 play drive that featured 41 yards of rushing.

4. Play with poise—The Steelers are a playoff-experienced team. The Jaguars are not. Poise in the playoffs is critical. The Jaguars have to find it early in this game.

5. Get a lead—It would keep the Steelers from gaining momentum.

6. Win the QB battle—The team that does usually wins, and that’s especially true in the playoffs. Postseason performance is the true mark of a quarterback. Note: Ben Roethlisberger is the better of the two quarterbacks, but the patchwork offensive line responsible for protecting him isn't anywhere as good as Jacksonville's (see item #2). If Mr. Roethlisberger can remain upright throughout the day the Steelers have a chance.

7. Be special—Jaguars special teams played horribly in the last meeting between the two teams. The Steelers have had major problems on special teams this season and the Jaguars should enjoy a major advantage in this aspect of the game. Note: This may be overstating things a bit, but the Steelers' special teams did outplay the special teams of the Jaguars. Jacksonville averaged under 20 yards per kick return, under 4 yards per punt return, and the Jags' punter had a net average of 26.6 yards -- though he did have three punts downed inside the Steelers' 20 yard line.

8. Win the physical battle, again—The Jaguars are the more physical team. This should be a given.

9. Beware Holmes—Santonio Holmes is the Steelers’ home-run hitter. He has the kind of speed and athletic talent that should be feared and respected.

10. Seize the moment—This is the Jaguars’ portal to so many good things. This is a game that could deepen the roots of professional football in Jacksonville. This is a game that could truly earn the Jaguars national respect. A win would likely send the Jaguars to New England for a chance to make history. A loss would ruin everything.

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