It has been a while but the Pittsburgh Steelers are finally returning to action this Sunday to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars for a spot in the AFC Championship game. The Steelers will be taking on the Jaguars in a rematch of their Week 5 meeting, though they are hoping the end results are different this time around. Victims of a 30-9 blowout loss in Week 5, the Steelers will look to avenge their loss this Sunday against the stout Jaguars. As usual, here are the numbers shaping this playoff matchup.
Led by cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the Jaguars defense is arguably the top defense in the NFL. The unit is allowing an average of 1.19 points per drive, tops in the NFL, but the Jaguars ability to suffocate an offense does not end there. Their foes are averaging an NFL low 5.1 plays per drive and an NFL low 22.3 yards per drive. The total domination continues across the board as the Jaguars are allowing an AFC low 16.8 points per game and are second in the league in interceptions with 21. For the Steelers to emerge victorious they are going to have to find a way to break through the wall that is the Jaguars defense.
Perhaps the scariest figure of the Jaguars offense is running back Leonard Fournette, as many still have nightmares about his 181-yard rushing performance earlier in the year against the Steelers. But remove the smoke and mirrors, and you will see Fournette averaged just 3.9 yards per carry this season, a tad lower than Le’Veon Bell’s 4.0 yards per carry. The rookie running back has shown his fatigue as he adjusts to a full-length NFL season, averaging just 2.7 yards per carry last week and failing to break 4.0 yards per carry in seven of his last eight games.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is an impressive 5-1 over his career in the divisional round. The Steelers quarterback has thrown six touchdowns and four interceptions in the divisional round over his career and while these numbers are not eye popping, his game management has been superb. In four of his career six games played in the divisional round, Roethlisberger has finished with a passer rating of 90.0 or higher. With the Jaguars defense poising perhaps Roethlisberger’s toughest divisional foe this Sunday, the quarterback will need to keep his good fortune rolling in this year’s divisional matchup.
Let’s jump back to Roethlisberger, who has a career passer rating of 80.8 against the Jaguars. Roethlisberger’s 80.8 passer rating against the Jaguars is his lowest against any opponent that he has played at least five games against. With eight interceptions and 22 sacks in seven career games against the Jaguars, Roethlisberger has been unable to solve the equation that is the Jaguars defense over his career. This Sunday, Roethlisberger will have another shot at re-writing and possibly erasing the blemish that is the Jaguars defense – a defense that has been kryptonite to his superman persona.
If there is a weak link to the Jaguars defense it is their ability to defend the run. While the secondary has been as fierce as the NFL has ever seen, the run defense has left a lot to desire, ranking 21st in the NFL with 116.3 rushing yards allowed per game. This should persuade the Steelers to utilize Bell who has had record breaking success in his short post season career. Bell broke the Steelers single game post season rushing record not once but twice last season, and the team will look to lean back on their running back on the way to victory Sunday.