JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When the Jaguars travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers Sunday, they will encounter their most difficult task of the year. Not only are the Steelers always tough to beat at home, but the Jaguars will face a Pittsburgh offense loaded with experience and talent, and a defense that just keeps getting it done year after year.
The Steelers have started the season 3-1, are the favorites in Las Vegas to win the Super Bowl, and have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'veon Bell are all rounding into form as the second month of the season opens.
Brown has already had a pair of 100-yard games and is averaging 97 receiving yards per game in the first four games of the season. Bell struggled, by his standards, the first three weeks of the season, but exploded last week in a 26-9 win over the Ravens, when he ran 35 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, the Steelers rank second in the league in total defense, giving up just 267 yards per game And seemingly regardless of who is calling the defense of plays, and who the players are, the Steelers continue to play Steelers football on defense.
"The production remains the same. The names just change, it seems, over the course of the years," said Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone. "They do an outstanding job. A couple years ago we went and practiced against them for a couple days, so I have a good feel of how good and how strong they are and what they do. All three phases are going to be a challenge."
If the Jaguars are to bounce back after last weeks overtime loss to the Jets, they will have to find a way to contain Bell, who utilizes one of the most unusual running styles in NFL history. At times, Bell will come to a flat-footed stop in the backfield, as he waits for a hole to open.
"He's so patient behind the line," said Jaguars safety Barry Church. "You're going to want to shoot that gap and make a big tackle for loss, but that's what he wants you to do. We're going to have be be super-discilined."
And then there is Rothlisberger. The Jaguars will face Russell Wilson later in the year as well as Philip Rivers and possibly Andrew luck. None of them have multiple Super Bowl rings like Rothlisberger.
"They have a lot of great weapons, great quarterback, great running back," said Jaguars cornerback Aaron Colvin. "We just have to prepare like we do every week."