Ding! Dong! The streak is dead!! That’s right, after losing about 200 consecutive games to the Jaguars (okay, maybe not 200, but it was a lot), the Steelers finally get a well-deserved victory.
For those of you who didn’t watch it, the Steelers traveled to Pittsburgh, Florida to play the Jacksonville Jaguars last night. No, that wasn’t a typo. I meant to say Pittsburgh, Florida. Afterall, that’s what it looked like. Fans in black and gold took over the stadium and made it feel like a home game. Of course, that’s what Steeler Nation always does. Nevertheless, each time I see it, it brings a tear to my eyes. Even after the game, the NBC analyst were doing their post-game recap, but I had a hard time hearing them over the loud chorus of “here we go Steelers, here we go!” that was reverberating in the background.
As I said in my pre-game analysis, this was not going to be your average Steelers-Jaguars game. Both teams came into the game banged up and missing key players. Additionally, the Jaguars have been unable to run the ball this year, despite being a run-oriented team. That held true last night, as the Steelers’ defense held Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew to a paltry 38 yards rushing. I guess Fred Taylor isn’t a Steelers killer anymore. Ha!
The Steeler came out smoking in the first half. Mewelde Moore (or should I call him Franco Harris?) got the party started with a nice run on the very first play of the game. Then things started to look shaky for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked on the third play of the game (no surprise there, eh?), and he threw an interception to Rashean Mathis on the very next play. Mathis ran it all the way back for a touchdown. That quickly, the Jaguars were up 7-0, and their offense hadn’t even set foot on the field yet.
But after that, the Steelers offense got rolling. Ben Roethlisberger started picking the Jaguars defense apart like Peyton Manning. He marched the team up the field in a long drive that culminated with a touchdown pass to Heath Miller.
The Steelers’ offense was so effective at eating up the clock that the Jaguars’ offense didn’t even step onto the field until there was only 5:18 left in the 1st quarter.
The Jaguars got their second touchdown in the second quarter when Ike Taylor was called for pass interference on a 39 yard pass to Matt Jones in the endzone. I said in my key match-ups article that Ike Taylor vs. Matt Jones was going to be one of the battles to watch. Unfortunately, Ike lost this particular round.
After a Jeff Reed field goal and a TD pass to Nate Washington, the Steelers led at the half 17-14. The Steelers first half performance was so dominant that going into the locker room at half-time, they already had 21 first downs as compared to only 4 by the Jaguars. They had 300 yards of total offense, compared to only 49 total yards by the Jaguars, and they had 69 rushing yards versus only 15 rushing yards for the Jags. And possibly most telling was the fact that Ben Roethlisberger had 239 passing yards and two touchdown passes at the half. As we all know, it usually takes Big Ben two full games to accumulate that many passing yards. But that’s what happens when a team’s first, second, and third string running backs are all injured.
Perhaps the most telling statistic was time of possession. At the half, the Steelers had controlled the ball for a full 21:15, while the Jaguars only had the ball for 8:45. Now THAT’s Steeler football.
The Steelers continued to have their way with the Jaguars in the second half, although adjustments by the Jaguars defense did slow down the Steelers’ passing attack. After having one of the best halves of his career in the first half, Roethlisberger threw for only 70 yards the rest of the game, and ended up with 309 total passing yards.
While the Jaguars never were able to get the rushing attack going (they ended the game with only 38 yards rushing), David Garrard came alive in the second half and made it a game. He threw for another touchdown pass and had the Jaguars up 21-20 late in the game.
The Steelers marched down the field and scored again on a touchdown pass to Hines Ward late in the 4th quarter, putting the Steelers up 26-21. Coach Tomlin realized that Jacksonville’s next possession would probably be the last possession of the game, so he chose to go for the 2 point conversion that would insure overtime if the Jaguars scored a touchdown. The Steelers failed on the 2 point conversion, leaving Jacksonville with a chance to win the game.
The Steelers’ defense held firm, and the Jaguars looked totally hapless on their final possession. Time ran out, and the victorious Steelers went back to the locker room under a loud chorus of “Here we go Steelers, here we go!”.
It’s good to have the home crowd on your side. Fortunately, Steeler Nation is so ubiquitous that every game seems to be a home game for our beloved Steelers. Here we go Steelers! Here we go!