Jacksonville has been a constant thorn in Pittsburgh’s side
While the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars may no longer be divisional foes, there is plenty of bad blood and history between the two franchises. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that the Steelers and Jags are each other’s biggest non-divisional rival.
The Jags stunned the Steelers twice in Pittsburgh last season, both times as big underdogs. Since this article is regarding history, let me throw a couple of fun facts your way. Jacksonville is the only team that has beaten the Steelers twice in Pittsburgh in the same season...and the Jags have now done that twice (2007-2008 and 2017-2018 seasons). Last year’s Jacksonville team was also the first ever team to defeat the Steelers at Heinz Field in the divisional round of the playoffs (what the hell happened to this team this season?).
Something tells me that Steeler Nation isn’t going to forget any of this soon, and will be ready to embarrass a struggling Jaguars team on Sunday, but more on this year’s matchup later. For now, let us recap the all-time series history.
All-time regular season series record: Jaguars lead 12-11
Postseason record: Jaguars lead 2-0
Last Jaguars win: Jan 14, 2018 (playoff game, 45-42)
Last Steelers win: Oct. 5, 2014 (17-9)
Current Streak:The Jaguars have won two games in a row (including the playoffs)
Biggest Jaguars win: 30-9 (Oct. 8, 2017)
Biggest Steelers win: 28-3 (Nov. 17, 1996)
Interesting takeaway: The Jaguars are 7-5 all-time against the Steelers when playing in Jacksonville. Although, after a 5-0 start, the Jags have lost five of the past seven meetings (including four of the past five) as the home team. Oddly, the Jags have won five of the past six games played in Pittsburgh, after a 2-5 (and 0-4) start there. The current trend favors the road team.
Quick thoughts: This has been an ultra-competitive series, and the two franchises have a rich history as former AFC Central foes. Including the playoffs, the Jaguars have a 14-11 all-time advantage, and in the regular season, the Jags have just a one-game advantage. Regular season games between Pittsburgh and Jacksonville have been traditionally low-scoring, with the Jags averaging 18.3 points per game, and the Steelers averaging about 16.7 points per contest. On the contrary, the two playoff games have been very high scoring (Jacksonville with 38 ppg and Pittsburgh with 35.5 ppg). Including the playoffs, 10 of the past 11 games have been decided by less than 10 points. These teams are no longer divisional rivals, but know each other quite well.
Date: Jan. 14, 2018
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Team Stats: Jacksonville — 214 passing yards, 164 rushing yards, 22 first downs
Pittsburgh — 469 passing yards, 83 rushing yards, 28 first downs
Quick recap: What a fun and nerve-racking game this was to watch. The Jags raced out to an early 21-0 lead behind three combined scores from Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon. Pittsburgh answered with a Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown touchdown strike, but then Telvin Smith game the momentum back to the Jags with a 50-yard fumble recovery touchdown. The Steelers got a much needed score before halftime and went into the break down 28-14. Pittsburgh opened the second half with a Le’Veon Bell score and all of a sudden we had a game. Another touchdown each, and it was 35-28. But Blake Bortles put the team on his back, though, with a strong drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Tommy Bohanon. Bell scored again for the Steelers, but Josh Lambo answered with a 45-yard field goal to put the Jags up by 10 points. The Steelers added a garbage time score, but it was too little, too late. It was a great effort from Bortles and Fournette, and the Jags went to the AFC Championship game for the first time since 1999.
Date: Oct. 8, 2017
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Team Stats: Jacksonville — 95 passing yards, 231 rushing yards, 15 first downs
Pittsburgh — 312 passing yards, 70 rushing yards, 21 first downs
Quick recap: This game had a little bit of everything: The Fournette wave, vintage 2017 Jaguars defense and bad Blake Bortles. Bortles was just 8-14 for 95 yards with zero touchdowns, one interception and a 48.2 passer rating. But thanks to a strong game from Leonard Fournette (yes, he destroyed the Steelers twice last year), and an opportunistic defense that forced five interceptions and bottled Bell up all game, the Jaguars were able to earn their largest margin of victory over the Steelers ever. Fournette had 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and the famous wave at the Pittsburgh defender embodied the attitude of the 2017 Jaguars (have I mentioned how much I miss that team?). Jacksonville also scored two defensive touchdowns, while the Steelers were only able to muster three field goals all game. This was a statement win.
Through the Decades
1990s: Jaguars 6-4
2000-2010: Jaguars 6-5 (one playoff win for the Jaguars)
2011-Present: Tied 2-2 (one playoff win for the Jaguars)
Quick thoughts: The “Through the Decades” view is interesting, and it shows why Jacksonville has a slight edge in the series overall. Though highly-contested, the Jaguars actually won the majority of contests in both the 1990s and 2000s, with a playoff win giving the Jaguars the one-game edge from 2000 to 2010. The Steelers went on to win the three contests following the playoff game, but the Jags have of course now won two in a row, following a regular season and postseason victory last season. To begin divisional play, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville split every single season series from 1995 through 1998 before the eventual 14-2 Jaguars swept the Steelers in 1999.
Fast forward into 2018, and we have a Steelers team that has won five games in a row and looking for revenge against a Jaguars team that is in a downward spiral it can’t seem to escape. It sounds like a blowout win for the Steelers, right? Nah. I don’t think records matter in a game with this much emotion — heated rivals, the game was flexed out of a prime time slot, etc. — and the majority of recent games in this series have all been closely contested matchups. The Steelers will likely win, but it’s going to be closer than you may think.
What is your prediction?