Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6-0 SU, 9-8-0 ATS, 8-9-0 O/U) at Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3-0 SU, 7-9-0 ATS, 6-10-0 O/U)
When and Where: Sunday, Jan. 14, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa., 1:05 p.m. EST.
Line: Pittsburgh -7.5
Ben Roethlisberger had one of the worst games of his career this season in losing to Jacksonville at home. He gets a chance at redemption with a spot in the AFC title game at stake Sunday when the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Jaguars.
Jags hoping history repeats itself behind bruising defense
Jacksonville (11-6) made sure its first playoff appearance in 10 years would not be a one-and-done affair as it stifled Buffalo 10-3 at home last Sunday.
The Jaguars limited the Bills to 263 total yards and recorded two interceptions, holding them to a second-quarter field goal after Buffalo had a 1st-and-goal from the Jacksonville 1.
Jacksonville only forced three three-and-outs for the game, but it also limited Buffalo to 102 yards and the Bills got no closer the Jacksonville 38-yard line when they needed to tie the game.
That defense also tormented Roethlisberger in a 30-9 victory at Pittsburgh in Week 5. The Jaguars forced him into a career-worst five interceptions, with linebacker Telvin Smith and safety Barry Church bringing theirs back to paydirt 2:39 apart in the third quarter before rookie running back Leonard Fournette put some gloss on the final score with a 90-yard touchdown run with 1:47 to play.
Fournette was bottled up by Buffalo, finishing with 57 yards on 21 carries. Quarterback Blake Bortles did more damage with his feet than his arm, getting 88 rushing yards and 87 passing, though his one-yard scoring toss to Ben Koyack accounted for the game’s only touchdown and capped a 15-play, 86-yard drive that chewed up nearly nine minutes of time.
Jacksonville, which finished second to Pittsburgh with 55 sacks, only had two against Buffalo. The Jaguars got to Roethlisberger twice in the win at Pittsburgh but also limited the Steelers to three field goals after they breached the red zone.
Steelers eyeing rematch with Patriots in AFC title game
While Bortles had a successful playoff debut, this will be the 21st postseason game for Roethlisberger as he chases his third Super Bowl title. While Roethlisberger does have a 13-7 career playoff record, he has been prone to throwing interceptions and has 23 of them to go with 25 touchdown passes.
He’s thrown 14 of those at Heinz Field while going 6-3 in nine postseason games, throwing for 2,070 yards and 12 TDs. Even sitting out the season finale for Pittsburgh (13-3), Roethlisberger posted his fifth career 4,000-yard season, finishing with 4,251 to go with 28 TD passes and nine interceptions aside from the loss to Jacksonville.
The Steelers have a potent offense, with running back Le’Veon Bell finishing third in the league with 1,291 yards despite missing one game. He also had a career-high 85 receptions for 655 yards while finishing with 11 overall touchdowns.
But one of the key cogs of that offense, Antonio Brown, is questionable after he missed the last two games of the season with a lower leg contusion suffered against New England on Dec. 15. Brown, who topped 100 catches and 1,000 yards for the fifth straight season with 101 for 1,533 yards and nine TDs, practiced for the first time in three weeks Monday.
Second-round pick JuJu Schuster-Smith burst onto the scene as a potent No. 2 wideout, adding 58 catches for 917 yards and seven scores while recording three 100-yard games.
Martavis Bryant made significant contributions with 50 receptions for 603 yards while tight end Jesse James had career highs of 43 receptions and 372 yards. Pittsburgh ranked fourth in the NFL with 387.6 yards per game, and its 41 touchdowns were good for fifth.
Defensive end Cameron Heyward had 12 of Pittsburgh’s NFL-leading 56 sacks, with linebacker Vince Williams adding eight and first-round pick T.J. Watt contributing seven. Ten different players had at least one interception as the Steelers recorded 16 overall, with Sean Davis and Ryan Shazier sharing team honors with three apiece.
Shazier, though, will not play after missing the final four games following a spinal injury suffered against Cincinnati.
The Jaguars are:
- 5-0 ATS in their last five games as road underdogs between 3.5 and 10.0 points.
- 4-1 ATS in their last five games at Pittsburgh.
- 11-5 ATS in their last 16 games vs. AFC opponents.
The Steelers are:
- 0-4 ATS in their last four home games.
- 5-12 ATS in their last 17 games vs. Jacksonville.
- The road team is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings.
- The underdog is 9-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings.
The Steelers had won the previous three games between the teams before the Week 5 loss. Jacksonville’s last win before that victory was in the 2008 wild-card round when it posted a 31-29 victory at Pittsburgh.
Including the playoffs, Roethlisberger is 4-4 versus Jacksonville, throwing for 1,935 yards and 12 TDs with 11 interceptions, including three in that wild-card defeat. Bortles, who had just 95 yards and was picked off once in the Week 5 victory, has split his lone two starts versus Pittsburgh.