If you’ve read Bob Labriola’s work long enough, especially over the past year or two, you probably have come to realize that he is no fan of bloggers, and perhaps even a special place in his heart specifically for contempt of our little niche of the internet here.
While he may hate what we do, and perhaps even the way that we go about doing it, I do respect the work that he does, the insight that he brings, and, particularly, the humility with which he readily acknowledges the extent to which his success in the field and knowledge is based upon the help he has received from others, often sought for specifically.
I particularly like to read his Asked and Answered segments on occasion, and one question and response specifically piqued my interest from yesterday, pertaining to the history that exists between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars franchises.
Many may not realize or remember this, but the two teams were in the same division together for seven seasons, from the Jaguars’ founding in 1995 through 2001, the final season of the old divisional alignments. Both teams were in the AFC Center. Post-alignment, the Steelers were moved to the North (which didn’t previously exist) and the Jaguars to the South (which, also, previously didn’t exist).
But during that time, as Labriola points out, Jacksonville under then-head coach Tom Coughlin knew that the Steelers were the team that he had to worry about. Coughlin, who later had success with the Giants and is now back in Jacksonville in a front office role, is well-known for his emphasis on divisional play.
And he took that principle to a fever pitch in dealing with the Steelers. As Labriola writes, “the Jaguars regularly overpaid during free agency to acquire Steelers players, and Coughlin was famous for adding Steelers castoffs or practice squad players shortly before one of the teams’ home-and-home matchups”.
He added that this practice of signing and cutting marginal players from opponents is what “led to the NFL passing the rule requiring a team hold onto a player for three weeks on its 53-man roster after taking him off another team’s practice squad”.
With the Browns becoming the Ravens, the Oilers becoming the Titans, and the Browns being the Browns, it’s no surprise that the Jaguars paid especial attention to Pittsburgh, who after all in 1995 had just gone to the Super Bowl.
Believe it or not, during the AFC Central era, the Steelers actually had a losing record to the Jaguars, going 6-8 from 1995 through 2001. The Jaguars’ win earlier this season swung the overall regular season head-to-head matchup back in their favor as well, 11-12.
Of course, Jacksonville also owns the win in the teams’ only playoff game against one another, a late win in the Wildcard Round of the 2007 season. They are the only team to have beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh twice in one season, and are looking to do it again, while Pittsburgh is looking to exorcise its Jacksonville demons past and present, en route to greater ambitions.