I thought the Bears game was hard to stomach as a Steelers fan, but apparently, the worst has yet to come. The Steelers lost in blowout fashion to the Jacksonville Jaguars – a team most believed to be inferior to the Steelers. Much like the matchup versus the Bears, the Steelers were heavy favorites in both games. This time, however, the Steelers were playing at home (a place where they have typically done very well).
For the second time in just five games this season, there wasn’t much positive to note from this game. Here are my winners and losers from Week 5against the Jaguars:
As usual, Shazier was one of the best players on defense. With his nose always around the ball, Shazier always seems to make a huge play. This time, it was a heads-up play to rip the ball out of the receiver’s hands and run it the other way (which was ultimately ruled as an interception). Shazier has also been much more consistent this year – proving once again why he stands alone as the most valuable player on the Steelers defense.
Sean Davis has failed to make much of a difference in his first few games, as he struggled at times and dealt with a few nagging injuries. This week, however, Davis clearly made his presence felt. He was constantly around the ball and punished Fournette a couple times by delivering the hammer near the line of scrimmage. Davis finished with a modest stat line of 5 tackles and a tackle for loss but actually played quite well, all things considered.
Smith-Schuster continues to be very reliable on few targets. Though JuJu’s 6 targets were good for just 4th on the team, he managed to grab 4 balls for 58 yards (14.5 avg.). He will probably continue to be just 3rd of 4th in line for targets, but the 20-year old has shown much promise early in his career.
This was quite frankly (and quite possibly) the worst game I have ever seen Big Ben play. Ben averaged a mere 5.7 yards per attempt on a whopping 55 passes and posted the first 0 touchdown, 5 interception performance of his career. I understand that not every pick was entirely Ben’s fault in this game. However, Roethlisberger showed very few positive signs of life. He constantly stared his receivers down and I felt he did a horrible job of scanning the field. Some of his reads were incorrect and his overall accuracy wasn’t the greatest.
Ben may not have played quite as bad as his stats appear, but it was pretty awful. His 75.8 passer rating on the season is bottom 4 among quarterbacks that have started at least 3 games. His play leaves fans questioning: how much does Big Ben have left in the tank?
Fans love to point the finger at Haley after losses when it’s not always his fault. This time, however, Haley must take some blame. The Steelers offensive coordinator elected to run the ball just 20 times (compared to Jacksonville’s 37), and his play calling in the red zone was once again bizarre. The Steelers threw the ball 3 times inside their own five-yard line, including an ‘out and up’ route that seemed completely out of place on a crucial 3rd down. Sometimes Haley needs to loosen those reigns so the offense can actually unleash on inferior opponents. This seemed to be another case of Todd Haley out-thinking himself.
Dupree has had a solid season thus far, but Sunday vs the Jaguars was not his best game. Bud was a non-factor (and practically invisible) in this game. He was credited with just one tackle in the box score and was hardly involved with stopping the ball carrier. Towards the end of the game, Dupree did a poor job of containing the edge and allowed Fournette to explode for a couple big gains. Dupree is typically pretty solid vs the run, but this was a game he will want to forget.
If I didn’t have such high expectations for Bell, he could have made a case for the winners list in this game. After all, he did grab 10 catches on 10 targets. However, his average catch went for less than his average run a season ago (just 4.6 yards per catch against Jacksonville). In the run game, Bell has been less than stellar 4 out of 5 games this season, as he averaged just 3.1 yards per carry on 15 attempts this past Sunday. It’s not that Bell is doing a horrible job, but it’s disappointing that he’s not playing like he did last year.
After three straight seasons of running for at least 4.7 yards per carry, Bell currently sits at merely 3.6 yards per carry through more than a quarter of the season.
I have no complaints about the run defense in the first half of the game. However, the second half was an entirely different story. The Steelers had several opportunities to stop the Jaguars offense down the stretch. Instead, they allowed long, sustained drives that kept the chains moving for Jacksonville, while the clock continued to tick. The Steelers knew that the Jaguars were going to run the ball with a two-score lead in the second half, yet they could do nothing to stop it.
Pittsburgh’s defense did a poor job containing outside runs and getting the Jags off the field. To put an exclamation point on things, the Jaguars topped it off with a 90-yard touchdown run courtesy of Leonard Fournette in the fourth quarter. The Steelers must be more consistent in run defense if they want to compete this year.