Pittsburgh Steelers Face Jacksonville Jaguars Friday


The real pre-season begins on Friday for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last week’s game with the Minnesota Vikings, a 14-3 loss, was a precursor to the standard four game preseason that the NFL plays.

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Unfortunately, the game was costly for kicker Shaun Suisham who is out for the season with a major knee injury. So on Friday evening, Garrett Hartley will take over the kicking duties when the Steelers travel to EverBank Field to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin met the media this week and previewed the game, indicating “Our intention is that all healthy men are going to play in the football game.” Landry Jones is healthy after playing an entire 60 minutes last Sunday night, however, that won’t be repeated in this second preseason game.

Tomlin went on to say that Big Ben Roethlisberger will begin the game and get 10-12 snaps. Jones will play according to his head coach but Tyler Murphy and Tajh Boyd will also get snaps behind center.

Depending on how well Murphy and Boyd perform could every easily decide the fate of Jones who in practice last Wednesday did not look good. While running a two-minute series, Jones was fortunate that a would-be interception by James Harrison was dropped by #92. However, B.W. Webb did pick off a Jones errant pass. The beleaguered quarterback was also dropped behind the line of scrimmage by 2015’s first overall draft pick, Bud Dupree.

Those not playing in Jacksonville will be Robert Golden, Dan McCullers, Ross Ventrone, Vince Williams, Bruce Gradkowski, Mike Adams, and Senquez Golson. With Shaun Suisham officially on the injured reserve list, Cameron Stingily who also injured a knee last Sunday was also shelved as he was placed on the Waived/Injured List and his return anytime soon is doubtful.

With room on the roster, the Steelers have added another rookie in Braylon Heard who plays running back and free agent David Nelson who will line up at receiver. Heard hails from the University of Kentucky but also played at the University of Nebraska and on the field you will find him wearing #40. Nelson is a veteran of five previous NFL seasons having played with Buffalo from 2010 until he joined the New York Jets in 2013. Nelson will wear jersey number 15 and bring with him 138 career receptions good for 1,530 receiving yards. He also has good size measuring in at 6’5″, 217.

In previewing the Steelers opponent for Friday night, the Jacksonville Jaguars are entering their 21st season in the National Football League and for Head Football Coach Gus Bradley, he enters his third season at the helm but thus far it has been a rough road for the Jags’ head coach. In his first year on the sidelines in Jacksonville his team finished 4-12. Last year got worse with just three victories. That record landed the Jaguars the third pick in 2015’s NFL draft overall and with it they chose the University of Florida’s Dante Fowler.

An outside linebacker, Mike Mayock called Fowler, “The most gifted edge rusher in this draft class. He’s not just a 228-pound edge guy, he’s 261 pounds. He has a freaky first step and he also sets the physical edge against the run game.” In the next round came an offensive weapon in T.J. Yeldon from Alabama where Mayock provied this analysis: “The knock on Yeldon is his speed. But he plays through a lot of injuries, so he hasn’t shown his true speed yet.”

Jacksonville’s running game has not been the same since Maurice Jones-Drew departed for Oakland and last year’s leading ground gainer for the Jaguars was Denard Robinson who rushed for just 582 yards and scored only four touchdowns.

The focus in 2015 for the Jacksonville Jaguars offensively will be on second year quarterback Blake Bortles. Sometimes you can only be as good as the talent around you and for Bortles he endured an offense that did not have many threats. Still, the rookie of 2014 tossed 11 touchdowns passes on the strength of 2,908 passing yards but was intercepted 17 times while being sacked a league leading 55 times. That is far too many times for any quarterback to be getting tossed to the turf.

Expect Bortles to get about the same minutes of playing time as Roethlisberger and then look for a combination of Chad Henne, Stephen Morris, and Jeff Tuel in relief of Bortles. Toby Gerhart is still with the Jaguars so that running back should be on the field for a few plays on Friday.

Allen Hurns is Jacksonville’s biggest weapon on offense heading into this season as last year’s rookie grabbed 51 passes for 677 yards and six touchdowns with his longest reception coming in at 63 yards. Behind Hurns is Arrelious Benn and Rashad Greene.

“We have a tremendous weapon in itself at quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger DeAngelo Williams

As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they should be safe at the kicker’s position as newcomer Garrett Hartley brings with him plenty of experience. In practice last Wednesday, the former Saints and Browns kicker nailed 10 of 10 field goal attempts one of which came at 49 yards but from distances of 56 and 57 yards, both of those attempts missed their mark. A final kick of 47 yards was successful albeit the ball bounded off the crossbar.

On Friday, watch for ex-Eagle and new Steeler Brandon Boykin as he attempts to come in and win a starting cornerback job. With most of the starters getting time this week, DeAngelo Williams should be making his Pittsburgh Steelers debut as he prepares to become the starter when the regular season opens until incumbent Le’Veon Bell has served his two game suspension.

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  • Williams recently spoke about becoming a Pittsburgh Steeler telling the media “The opportunity to play on this team, there are so many weapons. When you get to those weapons by running the ball, throwing the ball. We have a tremendous weapon in itself at quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger. Having the offensive line give us the opportunity to do what we do best as an offense and that is the ability to score from anywhere on the field and move the ball at will. The fans, I don’t know if there are more of them, or if they come with a little more fanatic to them. It’s different from what I have seen.”

    Steelers Nation is so often mentioned when players talk about what it means to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. While this game on Friday night is just a preseason game, Steelers fans love this location on the road perhaps more than any other city to go see the Steelers play other than their own.

    If this was a regular season game, one could expect anywhere between 15,000-25,000 Steelers fans at EverBank Field. This author has been to three of those games and can personally attest to how many fans show up in what has become known as “Jackson-Burgh” when these two teams play in Florida.

    As it is known, this game won’t count in the standings and like any other preseason game, what to watch for is how players perform and how well they execute. Preseason games are about execution and vying for roster spots among the 53 that are available.

    For the men that are three, four, and five deep on the depth chart right now, the pressure is mostly on them because they know after the first and second stringers, there is not much more room to make the regular season roster.

    Preseason games are fun for that reason because you get to see players who might not be on the team in a few weeks playing their hearts out and giving their all. The third preseason game has earned the reputation of being the contest where starters receive the most playing time. Therefore, Friday night, fans will get a glimpse of the first-team players but not much more from them.

    Next: Steelers: Introducing Your New Kicker

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