Undrafted rookie James Robinson has been taking the league by storm after being overlooked. He could give the Steelers trouble if their run defense continues to struggle
James Robinson has been averaging a remarkable 4.4 yards per carry and 76.6 yards per game. With the Steelers only allowing 106 rushing yards per game, 9th in the NFL, you’d think they’d be able to handle Robinson. In the last 3 games, the Steelers have allowed an average of 182 rushing yards per game. This is partly due to Tyson Alualu missing time with a knee injury. He returned last week but only played 32% of all defensive snaps, according to Football Guys.
One difference between the Jaguars and the other nine teams the Steelers have played this season is they are a run-first team. You don’t see many run-first teams in the NFL anymore. Especially with rookie quarterback Jake Luton under center, the Steelers know that the Jaguars want to run down the ball their throats.
So the big question is how do the Steelers stop the run?
With the defensive line now being healthy, we can hope the Steelers run defense plays like they did in the first six games. The Steelers offense needs to come out firing. Putting up points early will force the Jaguars to play a game they don’t want to. They need to establish an early lead in order to force Luton to throw the ball 30-40 times, which is what we want. At the end of the day, Robinson is a fantastic running back and will find holes. The defensive line has to force him outside and limit the running room through the gap.
5th-year veteran linebacker Myles Jack has taken this Jags defense to a new level
The Jaguars defense has struggled a lot this year, but one guy the Steelers need to watch out for is Myles Jack. After moving from middle linebacker to weak-side linebacker Jack has been on a tear. Last week Pro Football Focus named Jack, second-team all-pro on their midseason all-pro team. Although Jack’s stats might not seem great, 60 combined tackles, 3 TFL, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 interception, his presence is definitely felt.
Jack’s ability on the rush and pass should raise an eyebrow. There’s no way for the Steelers to really avoid him. The Steelers love to get the ball out of Big Ben’s hands quickly and the Jags might have Jack cheat a little in the pass defense. If he does start to cheat and move closer to the middle to break up the Steelers beloved slant and misdirection routes they will pick it up quickly and readjust. In the run game, we might see the Steelers pull DeCastro and assign him to handle Jack.
The Jaguars young receiving corp has shown to give defenses problems this year
Wide receivers DJ Chark Jr, Laviska Shenault Jr, and Keelan Cole Sr. have been on a tear through the first 10 weeks. Chark’s averaging 13.3 yards per reception and almost 50 yards per game. Those stats might not seem eye-popping but Chark has the ability to break out. In week 4 against Cincinnati, he went for 8 receptions 95 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Again in week 9 against Houston, he went for 7 receptions 146 yards, and a score.
Laviska Shenault Jr. hasn’t been amazing lately but he too has the ability to break out. Averaging around 5 targets a game, he has had an up-and-down year. Shenault Jr. hasn’t been great with Luton under center but both have the talent to spark at any time. The Steelers should be a little more worried about Chark than Shenault but don’t overlook any of these receivers due to their stats.
Last but not least, Keelan Cole Sr. Cole is probably Luton’s favorite target as the two connected on 5 passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. Cole also return kicks and punts, he racked up 113 yards and a score on 3 punt returns last week.
This young receiving corp can give the Steelers problems come Sunday.