In recent weeks, Ben Roethlisberger has said he wanted to play the Jaguars in the divisional round, Mike Mitchell has said the Steelers are going to win their rematch with the Patriots, and Le’Veon Bell has threatened to sit out or retire if he doesn’t get the contract he wants next season.
These guys know they have to play Jacksonville this Sunday, right? And that Jacksonville embarrassed them at Heinz Field in Week 5?
“It certainly has the Jags’ attention,” Associated Press Jaguars reporter Mark Long said on Ferrall on the Bench. “They’ve heard every bit of it, and we’ll see how they respond. If there is bulletin-board material in the NFL, the Jags have a little bit of it this week. The common theme in the Jags’ locker room is ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ It’s not just one guy; it’s two or three guys saying the same thing: ‘If this is what Roethlisberger wants, if this is what he was hoping for – well, he’s going to get it.’ And they can back it up. It’s a lot of talk, but certainly the Jags are capable on defense of backing up whatever they say.”
The Jags have held the opposition to 10 points or fewer 10 times this season, including the Bills, who they beat in the Wild Card 10-3.
“It is a great defense, and it’s got a chance to be a generational defense,” Long said. “I’m not calling them the ’85 bears or the 2000 Ravens or even the 2015 Broncos, but they’ve certainly got a chance to be in the conversation. You don’t expect five turnovers, two sacks and nine points against Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh can’t go in there thinking, ‘Week 5 was a fluke,’ and they’re going to drop 24, 27, 30 points on this defense. That would be the big shocker.”
“I think it’s going to be a ridiculously low-scoring game,” Long continued. “I think 17 points is the magic number. If Pittsburgh can get on the plus side of 17, they’re in good shape. If Jacksonville can keep it lower than that, they’re in good shape. It’s going to be a ridiculously low-scoring game.”
While the defense will likely do its part, Blake Bortles needs to do his. Bortles has had his moments this season, but his long-term future with the franchise is very much in doubt, as he threw for just 87 yards last week.
“Unless something changes dramatically beginning Sunday, Blake Bortles isn’t the answer in Jacksonville,” Long said. “I think everybody in Jacksonville knows it. The first three weeks of December, he was the best quarterback in the NFL. He had a better quarterback rating than Tom Brady. He looked good. But it was against Seattle, Indianapolis and Houston – three trash defenses. What we’re seeing the last couple weeks is what we’ve seen for three years from Blake Bortles: a guy who just can’t get it done in crunch time, who just doesn’t have any consistency to him, and Tom Coughlin is not going to put up with that. And certainly the people of Jacksonville deserve better. When you’ve got that defense – and the window on that defense is going to be small – but what you’ve got on the defensive side of the ball, they’ve got to upgrade (their quarterback) and upgrade it in a hurry starting this offseason.”