Jaguars 45 ? Steelers 42
Antonio Brown: 7 receptions for 132 yards – 2 Touchdowns
Vance McDonald: 10 receptions for 112 yards
Le’Veon Bell: 9 receptions for 88 yards – 1 Touchdown
Martavis Bryant: 2 receptions for 78 yards – 1 Touchdown
Eli Rogers: 5 receptions for 42 yards
Jesse James: 1 reception for 12 yards
JuJu Smith-Schuster: 3 receptions for 5 yards
Le’Veon Bell: 16 rushes for 67 yards, Avg: 4.2 yards – 1 Touchdown
Ben Roethlisberger: 2 rushes for 16 yards, Avg: 8.0 yards
Chris Boswell ? FGM: 0 for 0, PCT: 0%, XPM ? 6 , 6 PTS.
In a playoff game that was certainly not for the faint of heart, both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars battled and produced a combined 930 yards of total offense and 80 total points. At the end, it was the Jaguars that prevailed, inching out a 45-42 victory at Heinz Field and ending the Steelers 2017 season. With this loss, the Jaguars move on to the AFC Championship round against Tom Brady and his New England Patriots in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
The Jaguars offense, often overlooked and underrated, looked to prove early that they were not just a one-dimensional team. In their first possession, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles put together an 8-play 66 yard drive which included a 21-yard completion to Jaguars tight end Ben Koyack and a 13-yard pass to receiver Marquise Lee. It culminated with a 1-yard touchdown run by rookie running back Leonard Fournette and gave the Jaguars an early 7-0 lead. After an interception by Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack placed them at the Steelers 18 yard line, Fournette struck again with an 18-yard touchdown run, giving them a 14-0 lead before the end of the quarter.
In the second quarter, the Jaguars offense would succeed following a failed series by the Steelers offense. Running back TJ Yeldon‘s 4-yard touchdown completed an 11-play, 75 yard drive, giving the Jaguars a commanding 21-0 lead. On the next series the Steelers offense showed signs of life, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s 23-yard pass to receiver Antonio Brown cut the Jaguars lead to 14. On the next Steelers possession, the Jaguars defense came up with one of their biggest plays of the game, as defense end Yannick Ngakoue sacked Roethlisberger and forced a fumble that was picked up and returned for 50 yards by linebacker Telvin Smith. With the touchdown confirmed, the Jaguars extended their lead again to 21. On the ensuing drive, Roethlisberger came up big on 4th down as he found receiver Martavis Bryant in the end zone for the 36-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 14 before the end of the half.
The Steelers offense did not waste any time carrying their momentum into the third quarter. Running back Le’Veon Bell‘s 19-yard touchdown completed a 10-play 77-yard drive, shaving the Jaguars lead to just 7 points. This touchdown proved to be the only points scored in the quarter as the Jaguars and Steelers defense forced consecutive punts on the opposing offense.
After a failed Steelers offensive series to begin the fourth quarter, the Jaguars offense struck again. Bortles 45-yard pass to receiver Keelan Cole set up another Fournette touchdown, extending the lead to 35-21. On the next series, Roethlisberger once again came up big on 4th down, completing a 43-yard touchdown pass to Brown, cutting the lead again to just one touchdown. Unfortunately the Steelers defense could not contain the Jaguars on the ensuing drive. On 3rd down, Bortles 40-yard completion to Yeldon helped extend their drive, culminating in a 14-yard touchdown pass to running back Tommy Bohanon, helped give the Jaguars a 42-28 lead late in the contest.
On the next Steelers possession, Roethlisberger’s lateral pass to Bell completed a 75-yard touchdown drive, reducing the lead to just one score. Fortunately, the Steelers defense was able to hold the Jaguars offense to a field goal, giving them a 45-35 lead with less than 3 minutes in the game. On the final possession of the game, the Steelers offense completed a 10-play, 75-yard drive as Roethlisberger found receiver Juju Smith-Schuster in the end zone closing the lead to just 3. Unfortunately for the Steelers, it was too little too late as time had expired, giving the Jaguars a huge victory.
To me, the end of the Steelers season leaves a lot more questions than answers. From a personnel standpoint, offensive coordinator Todd Haley becomes a free agent, and due to his tumultuous end to his season he may be moving on. Then we have wide receiver coach Richard Mann who made it clear that the 2017 would be his last season coaching in the NFL. In addition to these noted coaches, there has been speculation surrounding offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who was interviewed several days ago for the vacant head coaching position for the Arizona Cardinals.
From the standpoint of the players on this team, the future of Le’Veon Bell is still unknown, as he made it clear that he would not be returning under the franchise tag for another season. Long time cornerback William Gay may have played his last game in a Steelers uniform. At the beginning of the season, many speculated quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could be retiring; although he announced his desire to return prior to this game, much can change during the offseason.
It is one thing to lose a game of this nature. It’s another thing to lose a game of this nature, not knowing what the future holds for players and personnel that have made tremendous contributions to the organization. The Steelers as a franchise have thrived on stability, but with the future of many in doubt (defensive back coach Carnell Lake should be included in this list), the offseason for the Steelers is seemingly unstable.
From a positive standpoint, sometimes change can be the thing that an organization needs to attain that next level of success. In this particular game on the defensive side, the secondary was not prepared, particularly in the one area that has been a weakness for the safeties since their game against the Tennessee Titans — that being the deep middle of the field. This could also be attributed to poor play calling on the part of defensive coordinator Keith Butler or the lack of adjustments made. The one thing that is for certain, the Steelers secondary still remains an issue and perhaps change in personnel can help this.
Overall am I proud of the 2017 Steelers. They overcame more controversy and obstacles than any team in the NFL had to endure. At the same time, I will always look at this season as the season that should have been. 2018 represents the 9th anniversary of their last Super Bowl winning season in 2008-09. Perhaps much of what is happening now, is a replay of what happened nearly a decade ago; Jaguars beating the Steelers in the playoffs, the Steelers winning the Super Bowl the next season. Despite everything that happened in this game, the Steelers are on the right path which can be a greater one with the right changes.
Steelers Play of the Game:
Things were certainly booming for Antonio Brown with this amazing 43-yard touchdown reception, courtesy of a beautiful pass from Ben Roethlisberger on 4th down.