Pittsburgh, PA —
It’s game day at Heinz Field. The 3-2 Steelers look to add another win, while the 2011 Jacksonville Jaguars enter Pittsburgh with a 1-4 record and a rookie quarterback under center. After two disappointing losses, especially to Houston, the Steelers handed Tennessee a big loss. The Steelers seemed to gain some much-needed mojo last week and players who were added to the roster, like Max Starks, appeared to boost not only the momentum of the team, but also the morale. The run defense was much improved last Sunday, as was the Steelers running game spearheaded by Issac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. Regardless of the two teams’ records, this week will once again test the mettle of a Steelers team looking for a winning season.
Who to watch – matchups
1. Issac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer
Mewelde Moore (high ankle strain) and Rashard Mendenhall (hamstring) have both been working through injury. Coach Tomlin said that Moore is questionable for the Jacksonville game. Last week Redman and Dwyer combined for 156 yards on 26 carries. Even though neither made it into the end zone, Dwyer’s 76-yard scamper was one for the highlight reel. Mendenhall is expected to return, but he may be limited in how many downs he’s used. Redman said he expected Mendenhall to start, but last week Redman showed that he has the ability to be the starting back behind Roethlisberger. Mendenhall was back at practice Wednesday, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. This may be the week for the Steelers to utilize a more balanced offense.
2. Max Starks vs. Jacksonville Defensive Line
With the return of Starks prior to the Titans game due to yet another injury-plagued offensive line (see the 2010 season), Roethlisberger’s blind side did see more protection against Tennessee. Jonathan Scott will likely step in at right tackle in place of the injured rookie, Marcus Gilbert (left shoulder). Starks will be lined up against the Jaguars’ Jeremy Mincey, one of Jacksonville’s best pass rushers (he leads the team with 18 quarterback pressures). Jacksonville’s defense has just 8 sacks this season, two of them coming from Matt Roth. Starks and company will have to step up their game even more this week to enable Roethlisberger to get the Steelers offense running on all cylinders.
3. Steelers O-Line vs. Jacksonville Linebackers
There is some good news on this front. Jacksonville will be without Clint Session and Daryl Smith. That leaves Paul Posluszny and Kyle Bosworth as the main linebackers for the Jaguars. Smith, up to this week, had been the Jaguars’ top defenseman, but he suffered a head injury and isn’t expected to be cleared for play today. Posluszny is no slouch; he has 39 combined tackles and one sack. Bosworth, on the other hand, hasn’t seen as much playing time and only has 2 combined tackles. If the Steelers offensive line can hold back any sort of attack by Jacksonville’s linebacking corps, expect them to open holes for the rushing game all day long.
4. Hines Ward vs. Jacksonville’s defensive backfield
Anyone who thought Hines Ward’s career was finished found out last week that his 7 catches and two touchdowns proved the man can do more than dance. When Ward leaped over a Titans defender, Ward simply scored his 85th career touchdown. Ward could eclipse Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin for 19th place in career NFL receiving yards if he gets just 13 more yards against Jacksonville. You can pretty much bank on it. Free safety Dawan Landry leads the defensive backs with 32 combined tackles, and one interception for no gain. Strong safety Dwight Lowery has 15 combined tackles and 2 interceptions for 26 yards. Corners William Middleton and Rashean Mathis have combined for 2 interceptions and 39 total tackles. Unfortunately, the Jaguars’ opponents have had as many total interception takeaways as the entire Jags defense (at 6) and for more yards (Jacksonville 63, opponents 97). No defensive back in the Jaguars uniform has been able to convert the turnovers into touchdowns. The Jaguars have allowed 87 total first downs, 3/4 fourth-down conversions, 1582 total offensive yards, 505 rushing yards and1077 total passing yards by their opponents. With Mike Wallace likely double-teamed, watch for Ward to have a big day.
5. Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley vs. Blaine Gabbert
If the play of Polamalu has come into question previously this season, it wasn’t in the last two games. His open-field tackle against Chris Johnson may have quieted the doubters. Polamalu has been all over the field lately, and with Jacksonville starting rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert (who has completed less than half of his passes for the third-worst passer rating in the league at 71.2), expect the fans to be loud and Dick LeBeau to dial Polamalu’s number several times today. With Polamalu ready to strike, Gabbert will also have to look out for LaMarr Woodley. Woodley has gotten off to a slow start, but the Jaguars just don’t have the receiving talent, and Gabbert will be forced to hold the ball longer to make a big play. James Farrior, Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons will likely get into the offensive backfield more often as Woodley pressures the entire game.
Injury Report – Steelers
James Harrison will be sidelined yet again this week after undergoing surgery for a broken right orbital bone. Defensive end Aaron Smith suffered a right foot sprain against the Texans and is expected to miss today’s game. Jason Worilds is battling a quadriceps injury and is questionable. Marcus Gilbert and Casey Hampton both have shoulder injuries. Chris Kemoeatu has a left knee injury. Although center Maurkice Pouncey received a right knee contusion against the Titans, he is probable for the Jacksonville game. Cortez Allen is also listed as probable for rotation into the game today.
Examiner Game Prediction:
Steelers 27 – Jacksonville 10
HEY! STEELERS FANS! Correctly guess this week’s game to win a limited-edition lithograph of Hall of Fame legend Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw. Tie-breaker must be added in case of a tie. The tie-breaker answer will be the number of passing touchdowns Ben Roethlisberger makes in today’s game. Leave your comment below to enter!
Note: Long links in pre-game and post-game articles are usually links to interactive features like videos. Feel free to click on the links. The video(s) will open in a new page.
Subscribe to get instant updates on the Pittsburgh Steelers on knotmove.com
Are you on Facebook? Friend Pittsburgh Steelers Examiner Christina to talk Steelers.
To email Christina click here.
Twitter and re-Tweet this article by following @3Rivers_Writer
OTHER EXAMINERS WHO WRITE ABOUT THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS (NFL)
Matt Pawlikowski Danny Cox
NFL EXAMINERS ON FACEBOOK
AFC NORTH EXAMINERS ON FACEBOOK
Steelers Facebook groups that Christina participates in (all fans encouraged to join in on the fun):
- Steelers Sisters
- Die-Hard Steelers
- I am a Proud Citizen of Steelers Nation
- Steeler Fever
- Black’N Gold Pride
- Cool Steelers Fans
- Amazing Steelers Fans
- Steelers Nation Mexico
- Steelers Del Estado Mexico
Are you a Steelers fan from Mexico or Latin-America, or read primarily in Spanish? See these articles made especially for you.