PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The Jacksonville Jaguars don’t have near the playoff experience as the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jacksonville, though, has winning experience at Heinz Field.
The champions of the AFC South (Jaguars) and AFC North (Steelers) will meet Sunday in the divisional round with the winner advancing to the AFC Championship Game against Tennessee or New England on Jan. 21.
Jacksonville trounced Pittsburgh 30-9 on Oct. 8 at Heinz Field, forcing Steelers two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into a career-worst five interceptions.
That game proved to be a wakeup call for Pittsburgh. The Steelers (13-3) went on to win 10 of their last 11 games to secure the AFC’s second seed and first-round bye.
“They’re a very different team now,” said Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith. “The first time we played them that was the first week that they had all their starters back. Now they’re a much different team. We’re just going to go out and play. We’re not worried about who they have or what they can do. We’ve done our preparation. We’ll continue to do that tonight and wake up tomorrow and play.”
Prior to wild-card weekend Roethlisberger said he would relish the opportunity to play the Jaguars again. After Jacksonville beat Buffalo last Sunday, Big Ben got his wish.
“I would want to play us again too," said Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. He threw five picks and was contemplating retirement saying whether he had it or not after playing us. They had a good season after our game. But, sometimes you have to be careful what you ask for. We’ll see Big Ben and the Steelers on Sunday. We’ll see what happens then.”
On paper the Jaguars have plenty of reasons to be confident heading into Sunday’s rematch. However they spent the week leading up to the game downplaying what happened during the regular season.
“I think where it benefits – we’re staying at a different hotel, so that doesn’t come into play,” said Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone. “Going into the stadium, that’s beneficial. You know where the locker room is, you know where the bathroom is, you know where the coffee is set up. Seriously, there is a little bit of something in that. Outside of that the environment it will be different. Playoff environment. It’ll be different up there. We’ll just have to go up there and focus on our team and what we have to do.”