The Pittsburgh Steelers head into their much-needed bye week with a solid 26-21 victory over the game but over-matched Jacksonville Jaguars.
The score is totally misleading because this game wasn’t nearly as close as it would appear. Seven of the Jags points were scored on the opening drive when one of the Steelers WRs slipped on the poorly kept Jacksonville turf and QB Ben Roethlisberger did his best Neil O’Donnell impersonation for a quick Pick Six. In the second quarter, the Steelers moved the ball up and down the field on the Jaguars’ pitiful defense but stumbled in the red zone and had to settle for Skippy Reed field goals instead of TDs. The Steelers went into halftime up 20-14 when statistically the game was a more vicious beating than the one Unknown White Guy gave that phony Kimbo Slice on Saturday night. We had 300 total yards of offense to their 50 while we had possession of the ball 22 minutes to their 8.
It bears noting, most of our superior offensive output came with Big Ben once again running the offense by himself in the No Huddle. In fact, it seemed like the only time the offense sputtered in the first half was when the Steelers came back from time outs with a set play, which would invariably fail. Obviously, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is not only completely useless at making adjustments, but his poor play-calling and ridiculously complex schemes actually hinder the team. Unless we add another Lombardi Trophy to the mantle this season, in which case we’ll probably be able to convince some ineptly run franchise like the Detroit Lions to take him as a head coach, I can’t imagine Arians returning next year.
Anyway, the hot, sticky, swamp-like conditions of that hellhole that is Jacksonville took their toll as coming back from halftime saw both teams sleep-walk through a poorly played and uneventful third quarter. LT Marvel Smith left the game when the inhuman conditions caused him to cramp up and he was ably replaced by the $7 Million Dollar Man Max Star… Oh, wait. That was Trai Essex out there. Guess Mike Tomlin is determined to make Loafus Maximus the highest paid bench warmer in history.
In the fourth quarter, Jacksonville’s overhyped and overrated QB David Garrard managed to avoid a couple sacks (aided by several missed holding calls on the O-line) and move the ball a little bit before the refs decided they must try even harder to hose the Steelers. I don’t get why they’re always so determined to help Jacksonville win these games. Either it’s a pity thing or the Jaguar cheerleaders must share a locker room with the referees. Anyway, the Steelers had 10 penalties for an unbelievable 129 yards, the worst coming in the final quarter when a 3rd and a mile play was erased on a ridiculous unnecessary roughness call on S Ryan Clark (a poorly thrown Garrard pass sailed behind the receiver who ran upfield directly into Clark) and then there was a horrendous roughing the passer call on LB James Harrison. With about 5 minutes left, the Jags inexplicably lead 21-20 despite being overwhelmed in every facet of the game.
This brought Big Ben and the offense back out for the climatic drive where he coolly and efficiently led the team down the field, once again shredding the defense like it wasn’t there. RB Mewelde Moore, the Last Man Standing in the Steeler backfield, ripped off a nice 20 yard scamper, finishing the game with 99 yards rushing. I hope they remember what a gem they have with this guy when Fast Willie Parker returns because it seemed like the first three weeks they barely used him. Then Ben made an absolutely incredible play where he was being mugged by three Jacksonville defenders, one of which was dragging him backwards by the jersey, yet he still managed to shot put the ball downfield to Hines Ward for a big 20 yard gain. Ben Roethlisberger was a warrior out there with his throwing arm hanging limply at his side but still mustering up the ability to drill laser beam-like spirals into tight spaces when needed. A handful of plays after Big Ben’s heroics, Hines made some of his own with a great toe-dragging catch on an end zone fade route. Game set match.
On a personal note, I would like to point out in my authoritative preview analysis, I mentioned Jacksonville CB Rashean Mathis was a dangerous ballhawk who should be watched. And who had the INT return for the touchdown? Why Mathis of course. Meanwhile, the “great and clutch” Matt Jones, who some Jaguar fan felt compelled to defend, had 2 catches for a whopping 25 yards. I realize Jacksonville only has about 25 fans out there but honestly, their fans do deserve a blogger who actually knows a little something about their team. This is why I love Steeler Nation. If we had a receiver who was as stunningly mediocre as Matt Jones, we would admit that fact, not try to deny it.
The Baltimore Ravens went down in flames yesterday and now look to be a .500 team at best. So these early wins are doubly important as it’s looking more and more like 9 or 10 wins will take the division easily. It was an unnecessarily close call but the Steelers got the job done and move into the bye week at 4-1. This is good since the meat of the Hardest Schedule in the NFL™ has yet to come. And with a team that is as badly banged up as the Steelers, where literally every position from punter to quarterback to both lines has faced major injury issues so far this year, getting a win and then getting some rest are pretty much exactly what the doctor ordered.