PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — I have never been so sure of anything in sports in my life.
This one is simple; this one is a cinch and a no-brainer: There is no way (barring something unforeseen like an injury to Ben Roethlisberger or one of the Steelers’ big dogs) that Blake Bortles is winning the next game he plays.
Not in January.
Not in Pittsburgh.
Not in the playoffs.
Not when it is freezing cold.
Not when those Terrible Towels are whipping.
Not with Renegade playing in that place.
It makes not a lick of difference what the Jacksonville Jaguars did to the Pittsburgh Steelers back in October, what they did last week against the Bills at home or what Tim Tebow did to the black-and-gold many years ago in a playoff game in Denver.
None of that means anything just after 1 p.m. on Sunday when Bortles — who because he can use his legs a little has suddenly been talked about as if he’s Randall Cunningham — starts under center for his team. Make no mistake, the Jaguars have made it this far in spite of Bortles, not because of him.
I know what you are saying — and your point is well-taken. You are screaming at me that this is a Jaguars team built and fully assembled on the back of a stout defense and a sturdy running game; two aspects that don’t hinge much on the play of Bortles.
That’s fair. But I will offer a counterpoint that I feel is stronger.
First, the pass-rush of Watt, Dupree, Heyward and Tuitt and that bunch will offer a stern test for Bortles, a guy who has had his footwork and decision-making under pressure questioned from just about the first game he has played in the National Football League. Bortles is a guy who is prone to frazzle under pressure — that’s been his hallmark — and I wonder why anyone thinks he will suddenly find himself to be a calming force in a road playoff game. In Pittsburgh. In the cold. With all those Towels flapping.
Another counter is this: While it does matter how good the defense and running game is for the Jaguars, Bortles will most likely have to make a few throws of consequence in this game. His volume of throws might be smaller than most quarterbacks, but to me if the Jaguars have any shot at winning this game it will have to be a narrow win. And, that said, Bortles would be faced with more than one situation (say a 2nd-and-17 or 3rd-and-9 or something like that) where he’d have to complete a big pass in a big situation. In the cold and wind and (maybe) snow and under the pressure of playing on the road in the playoffs, what gives you any indication whatsoever that Blake Bortles will successfully complete a throw of consequence such as that in a huge situation.
I haven’t seen it from him. I don’t see him doing it. He is Blake Bortles — he isn’t even Jeff Blake.
This one is easy to see. Blake Bortles isn’t winning this football game on Sunday. There are far too many things going against him and, to be frank, far too many things he doesn’t possess.
This stage is too big for him.