By Ray Porter Jr.
PITTSBURGH, PA–There’s an untold stat when the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Jacksonville Jaguars in Pittsburgh: Since 1999, the Jaguars have beaten the Steelers 5 out of their last seven games in the Steel City (in Three Rivers Stadium and Acrisure Stadium) and their streak was extended Sunday as they beat the Steelers 20-10 in front of a stadium crowd of 67,225-which also included the team’s Hall of Honor Class of 2024.
“Disappointing result for us. Didn’t do enough over the course of the 60 minutes to secure victory,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “Thought we were going the distance in the second half. Had a miscommunication and gave up a long score. You’re not going to go the distance and finish ball games giving up chunk plays and turning the ball over.”
It wasn’t a dominating performance by the Jaguars, but a clutch performance. After all, the Steelers forced three turnovers (2 fumbles, interception), registered three sacks, matched their TD amount (1 apiece), and stayed close to them by only trailing 10-3 at halftime.
“The early portions of the game don’t decide the outcome,” Tomlin said. “It doesn’t. It usually doesn’t. It didn’t today. Obviously, you want more fluid starts, but it didn’t determine the outcome of the game.”
But the problem was what the Steelers didn’t do which was generate more points. After an impressive 2nd quarter drive, they were only able to generate 3 points, and what hurt them was the penalty that was called on them after what looked like a 55-yard FG (Boswell would then attempt a 61-yard FG that will sail wide right) and although the Steelers did finally get into the end zone in the second half, the Jaguars had scored a TD on their own (and the 2-point conversion) and added one more FG.
As I mentioned, I thought the critical things were the things that transpired in the second half. The long score, the turnover the things you can’t do as you’re leaning in on the last portions of the football game.”
What also hurt the Steelers was injuries as they lost All-Pro S Minkah Fitzpatrick and QB Kenny Pickett (10/16, 73 yards) in the First Half. Backup QB Mitch Trubisky was able to get the Steelers into the endzone (22-TD pass to WR George Pickens), but his 4th quarter interception with 10 minutes left to play ended all hope for the Steelers. Tribusky finished going 15/27 with 138 yards passing, a TD and two interceptions. The running game wasn’t effective as Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren ran for a combined 76 yards and outside of Pickens TD and fellow WR Diontae Johnson (8 rec, 85 yards), the Steelers’ passing game wasn’t as inspiring either.
“From an injury perspective, Minkah has a hamstring, and couldn’t return. Kenny had a rib injury, and couldn’t return. Had some other bumps and bruises, but I think everybody returned. Diontae (Johnson) returned, Dan Moore returned,” Tomlin confirmed.
Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence wasn’t great, but he was great when he had to be as he finished going 24/32 for 292 yards, and his 56-yard TD to RB Travis Etienne was the first TD of the game. Plus, the 3rd year QB also made key 3rd down passes which led them to 4 Brandon McManus FGs.
When asked about the penalty that erased a potential 55-yard FG by Boswell, Tomlin replied “I didn’t get a lot of dialogue. I hadn’t seen that called in 17 years of standing on the sidelines. Offsides, aligned offsides on a guard, on a FG protection. So, it didn’t matter what they said. I have never seen that.”
At 4-3, the Steelers must now learn from this and have short memories as they prepare to host the 3-4 Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football. The 6-2 Jaguars will face the San Francisco 49ers in Jacksonville.
“We don’t have a lot of time to absorb this. We’ve got a short week,” said Tomlin. “So we’ll do so quickly and quickly turn our attention in planning for Tennessee. As unfortunate as the outcome of this game is, man, it is final. We’d better turn our attention toward the next opportunity on the short week and those are our intentions.
Notes: LB James Harrison, C Ray Mansfield, Gerry Mullins, and Aaron Smith were honored at Halftime as the newly inducted Steelers Hall of Honor Class of 2023. PFWA Pool Reporter Brian Batko interviewed NFL Senior VP of Officiating Walt Anderson and Referee Alan Eck following Sunday’s game. When asked about the penalty on the 55-yard FG, Eck replied “The guard was lined up in the neutral zone. His head was over the back edge of the ball, so by rule that’s an offensive offside foul.” Anderson: “Whether plays are called for offsides, that’s the judgment that’s made on the field.”
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