Jaguars vs. Steelers: 3 keys to a Jacksonville victory

William Frost
·4 min read

The Jacksonville Jaguars will be the latest team to try and end the Pittsburgh Steelers’ undefeated dreams this afternoon when the two teams face off at TIAA Bank Field. The fortunes of these two franchises could hardly be further apart in 2020 as both are on opposite ends of the NFL in terms success.

The Jaguars come into this one hoping to avoid their ninth-straight defeat (and owner Shad Khan’s 100th loss in less than a decade) whilst the Steelers are looking to make it a perfect 10-from-10 to start the season.

Despite the optics, things aren’t quite as desperate as they seem for Jacksonville. In the last two matchups, they’ve lost by six points or less and were in both games well into the fourth quarter. That includes a nail-biting loss to the 7-2 Green Bay Packers last weekend.

Victory isn’t out of the question today as the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback carousel nearly bested Pittsburgh last week, so rookie Jake Luton should be going into this game confident that a win is not off the table. Of course, luck will have to be on the Jaguars side, but here are three keys to a possible Jaguars upset:

James Robinson is really good, folks

Not only is James Robinson a sensational talent, the Steelers’ pass-rush is better. The best thing the Jaguars can do is give the ball to Robinson and watch him work. The fewer dropbacks for Luton the better.

Most would anticipate that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is going to set his team up to make the rookie quarterback have to beat him, but if the Jaguars’ offensive line can successfully pave lanes, Jacksonville’s chances are better. If they do their part, Robinson is going to be the one to benefit from it as the Jags are without Chris Thompson and Laviska Shenault Jr. this week.

While that’s a lot of pressure, it seems like this young man has the nerves for it. That’s just another reason to put the game in his hands and see if he can recreate the success fans witness greats like Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew have against Pittsburgh.

Stop the explosive plays on defense

As previously mentioned, the Jags’ last two losses were by six points or less, but a key to those losses are the fact that they’ve given up a touchdown of 70-yards or more in both individual games. Things have improved defensively coming out of the bye week, but Todd Wash simply must find a way to limit the explosive plays from Pittsburgh’s offense.

This was always going to be a difficult task as the Steelers’ offense boasts human highlight reels Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Simply put, both are more than capable of taking the tops off opposing defenses, or turning catches upfield and making blockbuster plays.

Things are going to be that much harder this week as the Jaguars will go into this game without their two best defensive backs. Rookie C.J. Henderson has been placed on injured reserve with a groin problem, whilst surprise-star Sidney Jones IV was ruled inactive for the game. Not having both certainly spells trouble for the Jags’ passing defense, which was already the league’s third-worst group.

Win the turnover battle

Only two times this season have the Jaguars won the turnover battle in 2020. The first game in which they did it was Week 1 against the Colts in their only win and the second instance was last week against the Packers. That, of course, was the key to the Jags being in the game late against Aaron Rodgers and company.

Turnovers are always a crucial part of any football game, but rarely do a team’s turnovers share such a direct resemblance to their record. Jacksonville has lost every game this season in which they’ve turned the ball over in 2020. So given Pittsburgh’s talent on both sides of the ball, the Jaguars simply cannot afford to cough up possession.

On the other side of the ball, Wash will have his hands full. He’ll be looking to become the first defensive coordinator in three weeks to get the Steelers’ offense to commit a turnover. If he can achieve the feat, it could help tremendously if the game is a close one.