Leading up to the 1995 season, the N.F.L. wasn’t much about being “geographically correct” when they went about constructing their Divisions. It was sort of ridiculous that the N.F.L. had Tampa Bay in the A.F.C. Central, Arizona in the N.F.C. East, and Atlanta and New Orleans in the N.F.C. West! When the 1995 season started the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers were placed in Divisions that needed an extra team, not ones that were geographically relevant to them. Thus, Carolina found themselves in the N.F.C. West and Jacksonville found themselves in the A.F.C. Central. Long story short, Jacksonville’s placement in the A.F.C. Central and their status as an up and coming team throughout the late-1990’s fostered an intense and thrilling rivalry between the Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m sure that all of you in Steeler Nation that grew up in the early to mid 1990’s like I did still remember how heated this rivalry was in those days. I for one held nothing but complete and utter disdain in my soul as a youngster for Jimmy Smith and Mark Brunell. Yet even with Jacksonville’s moving to the A.F.C. South in 2002, the rivalry has still survived over the years and the teams have played some epic games over the last 9 seasons as well.
Before I rank and discuss what I believe are the Top 5 games from this series and why, let me just say that it was really difficult to choose only five games and that there were a few that I left off of the list that were fantastic in their own right as well. If you want to talk about other games from this rivalry just post your thoughts in the comments section. Anyways, hit that “Continue Reading” button and get ready for a not so distant trip down memory lane:
5. December 16, 2007
Snow Day $#!T-show
Jaguars 29 – Steelers 22
This game had a lot riding on it for both teams which stood at 9-4 overall and needed to gain any sort of advantage they could when it came to playoff positioning. The Steelers looked to get back on track after getting their tails kicked by New England the week before and were in dire need of something to go right for them at that point in the season. Jacksonville was trying to keep pace with Indianapolis who was racing towards another A.F.C. South title and needed to grab the highest Wild Card spot they could. On a day filled with snow flurries both teams gave it their all in a game that most in Steeler Nation would rather forget than remember.
After forcing the Steelers to go 3 and out on their opening possession, Jacksonville went right to work and QB David Garrard directed a drive that helped the Jaguars come away with a 36 yard Field Goal from Josh Scobee and a 3-0 lead. The 1st Quarter ended with both teams struggling to scrounge up yards and points, and after 15 minutes of play the game remained 3-0 in favor of the visiting Jaguars. The Steelers however got going in the early 2nd Quarter and took advantage of a Jacksonville Special Teams gaffe.
After an 18 yard punt by the Jaguars’ Punter Adam Podlesh, the Steelers found themselves with great field position at the Jacksonville 31 yard line. Big Ben made quick work from there and after a 13 yard Willie Parker run and an incompletion, Ben fired an 18 yard pass to his TE Heath Miller for a TD to put the Steelers in front 7-3. The play was even more impressive because Jacksonville’s Brett Hawkins tipped the ball midflight and Heath had to adjust to make the catch and then fight into the end zone.
Both teams continued to have trouble scoring until Jacksonville began to move the ball on a drive that started with just over 6 minutes to play in the 1st Half. Aided by a roughing the passer penalty on Steeler OLB Clark Haggans and some nifty running by RB’s Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, Garrard had his team at the Steelers’ 12 yard line with just over a minute to play. Garrard proceeded to hit WR Ernest Wilford on a 12 yard TD pass and Jacksonville took a 10-7 lead into Half Time.
I’ll never forget sitting at my computer screen following this game and hoping that the Steelers would find a way to stop Taylor and Jones-Drew. They were gashing the Hell out of the Steelers’ Defense, and without them Jacksonville was essentially directionless on Offense. I hoped the Defense would at least “nut up” or the Offense would find a way to turn their drives into points because with the way the Jacksonville running game was going, the Steeler Offense wouldn’t be on the field a whole lot in the 2nd Half. I hate when I’m right sometimes, and I really hated what Jacksonville did on their opening possession of the 2nd Half.
Jacksonville took 9:40 off the clock on their opening drive of the 3rd Quarter, and on a 20 play drive that went 74 yards down the field, the Jaguars took a 16-7 lead on a 3 yard TD pass from Garrard to WR Reggie Williams. Why 16-7? Because the snap and hold were botched, and poor Scobee didn’t have a chance to put the ball through the uprights. Regardless of the missed P.A.T., I was fuming at what had just taken place. Watching another team play “Steeler Football” that wasn’t the Steelers, and in the Steelers’ own backyard pissed me off to no end! Just seeing on my computer screen play after play of Taylor and Jones-Drew eating up yardage and clock made me want to throw up all over my keyboard it was that terrible. Nevertheless, I felt even more sick on the events that transpired after the TD though.
After going 3 and Out, the Steelers were in desperate need of a stop to keep the Jacksonville lead at 16-7. Jaguars WR Dennis Northcutt decided that it would be a good time to show up, and stuck a dagger in the hearts of Steelers fans on one play. Garrard went for the kill and Northcutt beat Steeler Safety Anthony Smith on a 55 yard TD and suddenly Jacksonville was up 22-7. Why not 23-7? Well Scobee missed the ensuing P.A.T. and somehow and someway despite getting dominated at home, the Steelers were only down two scores and there was still over a Quarter left to play.
Luckily the Steelers rebounded, and Anthony Smith came through on Jacksonville’s next possession in the 4th Quarter. Smith picked off a Garrard pass at the Pittsburgh 38, and raced 50 yards downfield to the Jacksonville 12 to set up an 11 yard TD pass from Big Ben to Hines Ward. Suddenly the Steelers were only down 22-14, and there was still almost an entire Quarter to go. Then the Steelers’ Defense held the Jaguars in check and got the ball back for the Offense who went right to work. Ben took the team 84 yards in 8 plays and Nate Washington hauled in a 30 yard TD reception that put the Steelers within 22-20. Then a crazy 2 point conversion play where WR Cedrick Wilson (Former QB at Tennessee and in High School) threw it to Santonio Holmes tied the game with just under 6 minutes to play!
It was truly incredible to see the Steelers rise from the dead like that. I was ecstatic and was crossing my fingers that the Defense would have one last stop in them so the Offense could take advantage. But 2007 was David Garrard’s year, and the Jaguars thwarted the Steelers’ attempt at a comeback by mounting a clock-melting drive. Taylor and Jones-Drew again ran wild and the Jaguars took 3:49 off the clock on an 8 play 73 yard drive which culminated on a 12 yard TD run by Taylor that put Jacksonville ahead for good at 29-22.
Willie Parker might have been the MVP of the day for the Steelers and he rushed for 100 yards on 14 carries. Sadly, the League’s leading rusher at that point in the 2007 season couldn’t have enough touches due to the Steelers having to play catch-up the entire 2nd Half. I desperately wanted the Steelers to have another go at this team, because I felt that Parker would be an under-utilized weapon that could strike the Jaguars at the right time. Yet as we all know Willie got hurt in Week 16, and the Steelers did have another go at Jacksonville. Stay tuned, because that dumpster fire of a game is on this list as well.