Finally the Steelers get the better of the hated Jax Jags.
Big Ben and the boys got off to a great start on the first drive. They efficiently moved the ball down the field. And in one play they were down 7-0, victims of an INT returned all the way home. It was a deflating moment that no doubt had many Steelers fans sighing and thinking, “Here we go again.”
They received the next kickoff and started a twelve play drive that would eat the next seven minutes off the clock. They mixed pass and run using all three RBs remaining on the roster. Ben even tossed the first of many successful passes to Mewelde Moore. The drive ended on a one yard TD pass to Heath Miller. It was a tie game and the beginning of a veritable offensive explosion.
Jacksonville’s initial possession came with 5:12 remaining in the first. They quickly moved 74 yards for a TD in a drive aided largely by a 39 yard pass interference call on Ike Taylor. Their offense had been on the field for under three minutes but the Jaguars lead 14-7. That would be their final score in the first half. The Big Nasty D smothered the Jaguars forcing three straight three-and-out punts while the Steeler offense quickly added two field goals and another touchdown for a 20-14 halftime lead.
How could the Steelers offense suddenly become so effective after managing a total of 16 points over the last two games? Ben was sacked only one time in opening two quarters with a rag-tag line protecting him. The answer lies in the effective use of the no-huddle. Big Ben is clearly most comfortable with the extra time to read the defense, peruse his options and audible if necessary. He found the hot receiver and dumped the ball to running backs. The offense was beginning to look like a machine. Passes were distributed to three different WRs and the tight end.
One must ask, “Did Bruce Arians have anything to do with this?” I think not. This was all about Big Ben distributing the ball and having options to get rid of it in a snap and his uncanny ability to stay alive and get it twenty yards down field when it looks like all appears lost. It was about the line blocking their man and backs and tight ends taking care of any blitzers. Bruce should announce at the next press conference that he takes no responsibility for the turn around.
The second half got off to a slow start for fans of offensive football. But if you love defense you got plenty. Neither team scored in the third quarter. The Steelers posted two quick three-and-outs while the Jags possessed the ball for over twelve minutes but to little effect. They punted once and failed on a 4th down attempt. Their next possession ran into the fourth and finally yielded just their second offensive score, the go ahead TD to make it 21-20.
Pittsburgh managed to gain a few yards on their next possession but were forced to punt. Their defense held and they got the ball back with about six minutes remaining for what would likely be their final possession. They needed a score. Ben passed them down the field with the help of a third and short scamper for 27 yards by the nifty Moore. They overcame a fifteen yard personal foul penalty on a twelve yard gain for first down. Ben escaped a ferocious pass rush to hit Ward and keep the drive alive. Finally, Ward caught an eight yard pass for the go ahead score with just under two minutes remaining. After a failed two point attempt the Steelers led 26-21.
Yielding a single first down, the defense stiffened and the Jags failed on a desperation attempt at fourth and fourteen. A few Roethlisberger kneel downs later and game over!
It was a tough match on the road but the Steelers finally defeated their nemesis. Next, they enjoy a well earned and much needed bye week.