Steelers vs. Jags Preview: A Looney Looney Playoff

Looney Jags
“I taught I taw a puddy cat…”

We did, we did see those puddy cats. Like a month ago, as a matter of fact. And, man, what a hellacious month it has been for our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. We lost our superstar running back, Willie Parker. We lost our starting left tackle, Marvel Smith. Then, for good measure, we lost his replacement, Max Starks. We even lost to the lowly Baltimore Ravens, who couldn’t beat the even lowlier Miami Dolphins.

As a result, not many people are giving the old Black and Gold a shot this Saturday night when the Jacksonville Jaguars return to Heinz Field for their Wild Card playoff game. The degenerate gamblers have already installed the Jags as 2 point favorites. Most of this love is no doubt because of the 29-22 victory they hold over the Steelers. I already broke down the two teams here so I’m not going to do it again. Instead, I’ll concentrate on what things need to be fixed in order for a better outcome this time.

Yes, the Jags physically mauled us last time. Allowing RB Fred Taylor and Pocket Hercules (Maurice Jones-Drew) to combine for an absurd 224 yards rushing is just plain crazy. The Steelers must, absolutely must, find a way to force the Jags into throwing the ball. Stuff eight guys in the box, run blitz FS Troy Polamalu on every play, go to a Cover-2 if need be but they cannot allow any of these ridiculous rushing totals if they want to win.

If the defense can somehow clamp down on the running backs, they’ll have a very good chance at winning because I don’t believe QB David Garrard can single-handedly win the game for them. He was only 17 of 33 for 197 yards in the first meeting, which aren’t horrible numbers, but you have to factor in 55 of those yards came on one play. That play, a flea-flicker, worked because S Anthony Smith felt he had to help on run support due to their line getting gashed and because he’s an imbecile. Overall, Garrard did not look very good throwing the ball and only butterfingers in the secondary prevented us from having two more interceptions. In fact, when it came down to crunch time, the final game winning drive was put on the running backs’ shoulders, not DG’s arm.

While Garrard is an efficient quarterback, the Jags are careful not to ask him to do too much and avoid putting any pressure on him to win games. This is Garrard’s first playoff game so the pressure is already on. Being forced into a pass happy shootout would be the ideal situation because, as crazy as this sounds, the Steelers have the explosive offense in this game. Jacksonville prefers to play more of a grind-it-out/”three yards and a cloud of dust” type offense and they struggle when they can’t.

Which brings me to the Steelers offense. What people seem to forget about the first Jags game is, yeah, our defense got pushed around like the fat kid at band camp, but what did their D do to us? Willie Parker had 100 yards rushing. QB Ben Roethlisberger had three touchdown passes against no picks. Sure, they had 5 sacks but terrible defenses like the Jets and Browns got multiple sacks against our shaky line so that isn’t anything special. The Steelers were down 22-7 and the Heinz faithless headed for the exits (Where do they think they live? Cleveland? In the ‘Burgh, we stay to the end, losers!) when Big Ben engineered a furious comeback. A comeback Jacksonville was unable to stop. So if nothing else, we know we can score on them as easily as Tony Romo does with well-stacked blonde bimbos.

As strange as this is for me to say, coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians must totally alter how we approach offense. Instead of using the run to set up the pass, we have to steal a page from the Colts or Patriots book. The Steelers need to come out firing, using the pass to set up the run. For one, any attempt to be a run based team is doomed for failure because our offensive line is even weaker with the newest batch of injuries and RB Najeh Davenport just isn’t good enough to keep the chains moving when they know he’s coming. WR Santanio Holmes finally looked 100% healthy last week, add him to Hines Ward, trusty TE Heath Miller, and our other wide receivers, and you have the makings of a pretty explosive passing attack. Yes, Ben will get sacked but he’ll also make plays and if we can somehow get 10-13 points ahead, then you force Jacksonville out of their comfort zone. The way the Colts beat them twice was they scored early, forced them to throw to catch up, and turned the game into a shootout. We must take Advice From Peyton Manning, at least when it comes to playing the Jags and not in other areas such as wooing vaguely heterosexual country-western singers rather than oddly attractive CW actresses.

They say those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Let’s hope Mike Tomlin is a history buff. Otherwise, it’ll be a long, cold Saturday night in Pittsburgh. And a long, cold offseason for our Pittsburgh Steelers.

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