Steelers Vs Jaguars X Factor: Defensive Line

As we will do every Saturday to get you ready for the week’s game, our X Factor of the week. Sometimes it’s a player, unit, concept, or scheme. What will make or break the Pittsburgh Steelers as they square off against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the Divisional playoffs.

X Factor: Defensive Line 

Guys, I gotta be honest. Struggled with this one. Could’ve gone in a lot of different directions. Considered the secondary, I’ve harped on them all week, the offensive tackles (they have a tough challenge), and some of the obvious suspects (Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell).

In the end, I went with where it all begins. The good ‘ol defensive line. Stephon Tuitt and Javon Hargrave are available this week, an enormous sigh of relief to Steelers’ Nation. They’ll need those two and Cam Heyward on several fronts.

One, to stop the run. That’s still the bread and butter of the Jaguars’ offense. It hasn’t always been effective but is certainly an identity and they pair that with a physical front five to block for a 230 pound running back. On paper, that’s a problem for any team. Their interior linemen do a good job on combination blocks, double-teams at the point of attack before peeling off to the second level.

Then there’s the pass rush. As has been the ideal all year, Keith Butler wants pressure from his defensive linemen and outside linebackers. That begins with Heyward and Tuitt, who combined for 61 pressures and 15 sacks. For Heyward, it’s just being his usual awesome self. Tuitt has to work on finishing plays, a problem he’s had over the last two seasons.

At the least, pressure from both is required, though nothing beats a QB sack. Quarterbacks, even Blake Bortles, can make throws under pressure. And I’ve repeated myself like crazy talking about the need to keep Bortles within the pocket, not allowing him to escape, especially when the Steelers play man coverage and vision isn’t on the football. That goes beyond just the DL, it’s anyone who is rushing, but of course, those guys will be doing it most often.

Expect Hargrave to play a lot of snaps. The Steelers played their base defense 67% of the time in that first matchup. A little of that has to do with the game circumstance but it wasn’t until the mid/late 3rd quarter the Jaguars took control of that game. Again, the Jags have an identity and as mentioned on Friday’s Terrible Podcast, run plenty of “heavy personnel.” Going to see a fullback, going to see tight ends, going to see both at the same time. Hargrave’s role will be as large against them as it will be versus anyone.

Here’s my thought process. The Steelers win if these guys succeed. Their success means stuffing the run, getting pressure, two or three sacks, and forcing Bortles to win with his arm, not his legs. All that happens? Yeah, the Steelers odds of winning this one look pretty good.

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • Joseph Nerges

    The run defense has been spotty all year long. I can’t forget the dismal performance versus the Bears to make we very weary about that aspect of the team in the playoffs. Add to that Shazier’s absence doesn’t give me any great hope that the Steelers ave solved this problem.

  • EdJHJr

    Also scoring on the first possession, getting them behind will be big.

  • BurghBoy412

    I love this D-line. It’s one of, if not the best I can remember. That being said. I’m secretly hoping the Steelers go D-Line on day 1 of the draft. I’d love to see them add D’Ron Payne from Alabama. I know there’s probably other positions of need that could be filled with the pick. However dude is a monster and teamed with the guys already upfront, Oh Man!

  • Kenny lee

    We good , rotate our superior depth, keep m fresh , Dominate

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I’m going with Bince as X-factor. Last game Fournette came thru a lot of open holes and he’s one of the few after the first line who hits.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Alex I’m not sure where to post this but wanted to get it to you. I trust it based on source.

    ‘Of the last six teams that lost a regular-season game by 20-plus then faced the same opponent in the postseason, exactly zero have exacted revenge.’

    Yikes, man. Very yikes..

  • BurghBoy412

    I wonder if JVille will try going up tempo early to limit the substitutions? I would hope the Steelers do this when they have the ball. Go up tempo early and often.

  • BurghBoy412

    I really hope the Defense across the board just makes the tackle. I hope they don’t play the ego game and start trying to lay the “big hit”. Just make your tackle and limit movement. There is no need to lay big vicious hits in this game.

  • Kenny lee

    Well we can give our DL a breather , our boys been playing the whole game over and over pretty much,

  • Sdale

    Gap integrity in general. I think the LBs are key because of this…not that it doesn’t apply to the Dline as well.

  • Kenny lee

    I would not trust levion , watch him

  • Mark

    We have to bring Sean Davis into the box and run blitz selectively to put Jville in 2nd and long. Watch the short crossing routes by TE and WRs to keep it third and long. Blake is now using his legs to get 1st downs.

  • Mark

    Our needs in the 1st 3 rounds. ILB (replace Shazier), OLB (replace Bud, no way we are giving him a 5th year option), and Safety/CB (to replace Mitchell and move Haden to FS). Then maybe a dlinemen, wr, or TE…

  • Mark

    Beat the man in front of you and get to the football. LB’s don’t try to do too much, fill your responsible gap. No superheroes needed on defense, do your job and make Bortel make plays.

  • BurghBoy412

    I know what the needs are. I wouldn’t completely dismiss D-line as a need. Injuries happen often on the line. IMO you can never have enough talent upfront. The better you are on the Line. The better the team will perform. Safety could be addressed in the 2nd. ILB in the 3rd (because the Steelers are pretty damn good at finding LB’s). OLB depth will probably be addressed but I don’t see any need to get rid of Dupree. Statistically this has been his best season. I really don’t see Dupree as this glaring weakness like the rest of the yinzser’s. Call me crazy or whatever you feel like saying. If Bud goes out and dominates in these playoffs all this “DUD” talk will cease. I think all this “replace Dupree” talk is extremely premature.

  • Alex Kozora

    Yeah I dunno, I’d have to delve into the research. I don’t put much stock into it anyway. I’m sure in most of those cases, it was a 1/2 seed who beat up on some Wild Card team.

  • BurghBoy412

    They very well could lose this game. Not what anyone wants obviously. I just don’t see it. JVille looks tired! 18 degrees isn’t going to help that either. Steelers win and win big!

  • Alex Kozora

    Bell? Huh?

  • WeWantDaTruth

    Don’t underestimate your opponent! Remember the unheralded Stan Humphries led Chargers team that came into Pittsburgh and got a playoff win?

  • BurghBoy412

    I’m sorry but I don’t see what a game that happened in the mid 90’s has to do with this game.

    The Steelers don’t have to be “special” to win this game. They just have to execute and take what is given to them. On D they have to make sure they have quality communication and make tackles. No need for big hits just tackle.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Good choice but I would have chosen our O line vs their D line.

  • pittfan

    I think much of the Dupree hairpulling is over blown as well.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Two keys, and you hit one of them – if they are down more than 14, I think they are done. So getting a lead is huge.
    But RUNNING on them and tiring that D out and THEN passing is in my mind the way to go.
    Steelers 21, Jags 13.

  • BurghBoy412

    The Defense doesn’t have to play outside of the capabilities in this game. All they have to do is communicate and take care of their assignments. No big hits! Just make the tackle!

  • BurghBoy412

    He performs well in the playoff and this team wins the Bowl. Watch how fast the temperature changes on Buddy Boy. LOL

  • BurghBoy412

    You can NEVER “replace” a Ryan Shazier.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Respectfully disagree. They’ll need to hang tackle and run to the ball in run plays. It wasn’t JUST assignments that caused the Jags to run successfully on the Steelers last time.

    They have good blocking schemes and runs are going to reach the second level.

  • BurghBoy412

    I understand what you’re saying and I agree with your analysis. I don’ t believe any of the players will have to play outside of their capabilities. They’re all perfectly capable of stopping the run.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    I’ve got the Steelers 23-16

  • WeWantDaTruth

    Calm down tough guy. I could care less what you may or may not underestimate. I am concerned about the players and coaching staff. The 90s game is just one of many examples in which a favored Steeler team in the post-season failed to take care of business. Like you, I also hope the Steelers “win big”, but I’m expecting a much closer affair.

  • BurghBoy412

    The Steelers fan base is known as a “nervous” fan base. Kinda wish we could kill that thinking. Not really sure why you needed to go all “tough guy” but ok.

  • BurghBoy412

    I’m going Steelers 42-10

  • Kenny lee

    Well we need 2 great corfinaters

  • Kenny lee

    Cordinayers

  • Kenny lee

    We got outcoachef

  • Kenny lee

    I believe we have the best players

  • Kenny lee

    Do something diff, hire 3

  • Kenny lee

    Fire 3

  • capehouse

    haha