Updated: Nov 22, 2020
The Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars are at different ends of the spectrum this season. The Steelers have won nine straight games and are the lone unbeaten team in the league at 9-0, while the Jaguars have lost eight straight games and hold a record of 1-8. While the Steelers should win this game convincingly, the Jaguars have played tough this season, losing four games by eight points or fewer and lost to the 7-2 Green Bay Packers by just four points last week, 24-20. Some media members and Steelers fans view this game as a trap game, but Mike Tomlin put that notion to bed when asked on Tuesday in his weekly press conference if Sunday's game in Jacksonville was a potential trap game.
"I’m not into the trap game discussion," Tomlin said. "This is the NFL. More than anything, the guys know my attitude regarding that. We are not a Big Ten team playing a MAC opponent this week. Every time we step into a stadium, we're playing professionals, players and coaches. We've got a ridiculous level of respect for that. Write your story, follow your storylines about trap games and things of that nature. We understand what we're going into in Jacksonville, that that's a group that's trying to kick our butt. A professional group, capable group, and we're preparing with that understanding."
- The Steelers are 12-14 all-time against the Jaguars. The Steelers have won their last three games against the Jaguars in Jacksonville, but they have won by just a combined 17 points. Roethlisberger is 5-5 (including playoffs) in his career against the Jaguars and Mike Tomlin is 4-4 (including playoffs) in his career against Jacksonville.
On Wednesday, Roethlisberger spoke with the media and talked about how tough the Jaguars have been to play over the years.
"The last 10 games against them hasn't been good at all. Extra motivation or whatever you want to call it," Roethlisberger said. "We are not taking these guys lightly at all. They have had our number. I know we won the last one barely. I know it's a different team. You have to understand this game, this group, these two teams, it's complete focus."
The Jaguars have just four current starters left from the 2017 team that beat the Steelers twice, once in the regular season and then in the 2017 Divisional Round game -- Brandon Linder, A.J. Cann, Cam Robinson and Myles Jack.
- The Steelers are listed as 10.5-point favorites against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday and the over/under is 46 points, according to Oddsshark.com. Pittsburgh is 5-0 against the spread in its last five early-afternoon games and the total has gone under in 14 of the Steelers’ last 18 games on the road, per Oddsshark.com. Jacksonville is 0-8 straight up in its last eight games. The Steelers are 23-5 straight up when they are 10-point favorites or more under Tomlin, according to Pro Football Reference.
- The Steelers have rushed for 48 yards or fewer in their last three games and had a season-low 44 yards rushing against the Cincinnati Bengals this past Sunday. The rest of the NFL is 3-14-1 when rushing for fewer than 50 yards this season. The Steelers, of course, won all three games that they rushed under 50 yards, but it's still a major concern.
“The biggest critique is our ineffective running game,” Tomlin said. “We spent a lot of time talking and thinking about that in an effort to move forward. One of the things I’ll acknowledge is you always go through lulls in a season when components of your play are lacking. It requires a re-center of energy or attention. I believe that’s where we are in regards to the run game. We’ll get about that task this week.”
The Steelers currently rank 24th in the league in rushing yards per game (101.8) and they are 27th in the NFL in yards per carry (3.8). The Steelers had a running back rush for 100 yards or more in four of their first five games. (One from Benny Snell Jr. in Week 1 and three from Conner.) Conner has rushed for 105 yards on 37 carries (2.8 average) in the last three games. His last 100-yard game came in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns. Of Conner's five rushing touchdowns, four of them came in the first five games of the season. From Week 1-6, the Steelers averaged 136.8 yards per game, which ranked ninth in the league. In their last five games, they have averaged 58.0 yards rushing per game, which ranks dead last in the NFL.
The Jaguars are allowing 131.7 yards rushing per game this season, which ranks 25th in the league. The Steelers struggled to run against the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals in back-to-back weeks, who both have one of the worst run defenses in the league. The Steelers fixed their third-down issues on defense against the Bengals on Sunday, not allowing a single conversion on third down on 13 attempts by Cincinnati. Tomlin is hoping they can do the same and turn the run game around against Jacksonville.
"We're not up to snuff right now, we accept ownership for that," Tomlin said about the run game. "We're going to roll our sleeves up and solve it. We had a similar discussion a couple of weeks ago when you guys were asking about our third-and-long defense. We did similar things there, and I expect similar results with respect to the run game."
The Jaguars rank 31st in the league this year in both points allowed per game (30.1) and yards allowed per game (415.6) and are 30th in passing yards allowed per game (283.9). The Jaguars placed rookie cornerback C.J. Henderson on injured reserve this week and cornerback Sidney Jones IV is questionable for Sunday with an Achilles injury. Roethlisberger threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns against a depleted Bengals' secondary hampered by injuries last week and he could have a repeat performance on Sunday in Jacksonville against an injury-riddled Jaguars' secondary.
- Rookie sixth-round pick out of Oregon State Jake Luton will make his third career start against the Steelers. In his two starts since taking over for the injured Gardner Minshew III in Week 9, he has completed 44 of 73 passes (60.3%) for 473 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and has a quarterback rating of 77.0. The Steelers are 23-4 against rookie quarterbacks under Mike Tomlin, according to Pro Football Reference.
- With a young inexperienced quarterback, expect the Jaguars to try the attack the Steelers' defense by running the ball with undrafted rookie running back James Robinson out of Illinois State, who ranks fifth in the league this year in rushing with 689 yards on 155 carries (4.4 average) and five touchdowns. Robinson has also been effective in the passing game with 29 receptions for 228 yards (7.9 average) and two touchdowns. Robinson has rushed over 100 yards in a game three times this year and has rushed for at least 99 yards in his last three games. Prior to Week 10, Robinson was tied with Chase Claypool in total touchdowns among rookies with seven each. Claypool had two touchdown receptions against the Bengals last Sunday and now leads all rookies in touchdowns with nine. With a touchdown against the Jaguars on Sunday, Claypool would become the first rookie to score 10 touchdowns in his first 10 games of his career since 1960.
Tomlin had high praise for Robinson when assessing the Jaguars on Tuesday in his weekly press conference.
"As we look at Jacksonville, one of the things that really captured my attention is this running back James Robinson," Tomlin said. "I cannot say enough about him and the respect I have for what he has done. I read something this morning that he has run for more yards than any undrafted rookie in the history of our game to this point in his rookie season. That says it all, but beyond that fact, when you look at the tape, his style of play is impressive. He is a deliberate one-cut guy. He is downhill. He is quick to holes. He has good vision. He finishes off runs extremely well with great pad level. Just stories like James Robinson really, those of us who are football people, we just have a lot of appreciation for that. This is an Illinois State guy, undrafted and is carving his niche out in this thing."
-The Steelers lead the league in sacks with 36 and are No. 1 in quarterback pressures with 126, according to Pro Football Reference. The Jaguars' offensive line has allowed 28 sacks this year, which is the sixth-most in the NFL. Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor have struggled for the Jaguars at the tackle position, so look for Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt to have a big game. Watt is tied for second in the league in sacks with nine and leads the league in tackles for loss (16), quarterback hits (28) and quarterback pressures (38).
On the flip side, the Jaguars have just nine sacks this season, which is the fewest in the league. The Steelers' offensive line hasn't allowed a sack in their last two games and has given up just 10 sacks this year, which is the second-fewest in the NFL.
The Steelers rank second in the league this year in turnover differential at plus-9 with 17 takeaways and eight giveaways. The Steelers' 17 takeaways are tied for the most in the NFL. The Jaguars are minus-3 this year in turnover differential with nine takeaways and 12 giveaways. The Jaguars' minus-3 turnover margin is tied for the seventh-worst in the league.
- Jaylen Samuels (quad) and Trey Edmunds (hamstring) didn't practice for the third straight day and have been ruled out. Both were injured against the Bengals this past Sunday. Jayrone Elliott also didn't practice for a third day due to an illness and has been ruled out.
On Friday, the Jaguars ruled starting wide receiver Laviska Shenault (hamstring) and tight end James O'Shaughnessy (knee) out for Sunday's game. Wide receiver Collin Johnson (hamstring) is listed as questionable along with Jones (Achilles). Minshew (right thumb) is also listed as questionable, but Luton will get the start at quarterback on Sunday.
On Saturday, the Steelers activated defensive lineman Chris Wormley to the 53-man roster from the reserve/injured list. Wormley began practicing on Nov. 18, and the team had 21 days to activate him or keep him on the reserve/injured list for the year. Wormley was placed on the list on Oct. 31 after suffering a knee injury against the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. Before his injury, he had three total tackles (one solo) and two quarterback hits in 51 defensive snaps this season.