By Daniel Benjamin
The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered their first 20-point loss at Heinz Field in three years with a 30-9 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. The last time the Steelers allowed a 20-point home setback was to the Baltimore Ravens (26-6) on Sept. 11, 2014.
Pittsburgh (3-2) has a lot of work to do if they have any intention of playing for their seventh Super Bowl championship. The Steelers once again struggled on offense, turning the ball over five times. The nine points the team scored are the Steelers’ fewest since tallying three points last September.
The Steelers led 9-7 early in the third quarter. That’s when the dam broke. The Jags defense returned consecutive Ben RoethlisBerger interceptions for touchdowns to take a 20-9 lead. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette put an exclamation point on the upset with a 90-yard scamper with 1:47 left.
On the positive side, the Steelers, who are among the league leaders in penalties, were flagged five times for 37 yards. They also once again played well on the defensive side of the ball.
Simply put, the offense stunk all the way around. This stench starts with the game plan and works it way to Roethlisberger, and extends to the offensive line. Yes, Roethlisberger will get most of the blame and a lot of it is well deserved. He was off target most of the game and three of his interceptions were horrendous throws. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey made an excellent diving interception in the second quarter, and JuJu Smith-Schuster slipped on Roethlisberger’s fourth pick.
The five interceptions were a career-high for Roethlisberger and he became the first Steelers quarterback to throw five picks since Mark Malone in 1987. Four of his interceptions were on throws of 15 yards or more. Roethlisberger has now thrown five of his seven interceptions on the year on those type of throws and is completing 34 percent of those long attempts.
Antonio Brown was really the only offensive player who had a solid game. Brown caught 10—of a season-high 19 targets—for a game-high 157 yards with yards coming after the catch. He did have a fourth quarter touchdown reception negated by an offensive holding call.
The Steelers offensive line kept Roethlisberger relatively clean in the first half, but the league’s top pass rushing attack finished with two sacks and five quarterback hits. More disheartening was that the O-line did not open any big running lanes for Le’Veon Bell. Bell, who ran fairly decently, totaled 47 yards on 15 carries and also had 10 receptions for an additional 46 yards.
The Steelers defense permitted two touchdowns and 313 total offensive yards. Ninety-eight of those yards came on the Jags’ final offensive possession with the game in hand.
Linebackers Vince Williams and Ryan Shazier were excellent. Williams and Shazier combined for the Steelers’ lone takeaway.
Special Teams: C
Chris Boswell was the only special teams player who played well. Boswell made all three of his field goal attempts with a long of 34-yards and three of his four kickoffs went as touchbacks. Punter Jordan Berry averaged 44.7 yards per punt on three attempts, though he shanked a punt late in the first half that set up the Jags in Steelers territory after a 29-yard boot. Jacksonville did not score on that possession, however.
The Steelers also managed just 14 yards on three kick returns—two kickoffs and one punt.
The Steelers’ game plan was way off from the get go, though they do receive points for getting Brown involved early and often, especially after his flipping of the water cooler. Brown had four receptions for 97 yards in the first half.
But back to the game plan. Jacksonville came in giving up a league-low 147 yards a game along with three touchdown passes (tied for second fewest). The Jags defense also had five interceptions and the third-best quarterback rating against. On the other hand, they were allowing an NFL worst 165.5 yards a game on the ground for a league-high 5.7 yards per game. The New York Jets rolled up 256 yards in Week 4.
So, what do the Steelers do? Throw the ball a season-high 55 times with 21 attempts coming in the first half. The biggest issue was that they threw seven passes inside the redzone, completing just two, and only running once.
The Steelers were also 0-2 on coaches challenges.
The Steelers head back on the road for a Week 6 match-up against the Kansas City Chiefs (4-0). This will be the fifth meeting between the Chiefs and Steelers since the 2014 season. Pittsburgh is 3-1 during that span, which includes a 18-16 victory at Arrowhead Stadium in the divisional round of the playoffs last January. The Steelers lead the all-time series 22-11-0.