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Entire Team and Coaching Staff Get the Blame for Loss to Jaguars

January 15, 2018
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Entire Team and Coaching Staff Get the Blame for Loss to Jaguars

Unlike for most of the game, when the Steelers defense really didn’t know what was coming from Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, inside linebacker Vince Williams knows what’s coming from the fans.

“I’m already looking for the hate the yinzers are going to throw on us,” Williams said. “I can’t lie and say we don’t deserve it.”

There is plenty of blame to spread after what happened Sunday at Heinz Field. Some of it can be traced to Mike Tomlin’s uncharacteristic comments about the New England Patriots six weeks ago. Some of it can be laid at the feet of Ben Roethlisberger and his two costly turnovers, which put the Steelers in a 21-point pothole that certainly looked very familiar.

“That’s the last thing we wanted to have happened,” said guard David DeCastro. “It was very similar to October. We knew they would be a tough team to beat if we did that and obviously they were.”

Since the 1970 merger, the Steelers had been in involved in just one game in which they had scored 42 or more points and lost. That was in December 1985 in a 55-44 regular-season loss at San Diego. But it had never happened in a postseason game until now, when Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns, the offense amassed 545 yards … and they still lost to the Jaguars in the division playoffs.

And it happened because the Jaguars made big plays on defense, converting two takeaways into 14 points, one courtesy of a strip sack on Roethlisberger, and twice turning two big stops on fourth down into long touchdown drives.

And it happened because Bortles made key plays on third down, converting 8 of 14 chances, and surprising the Steelers with big pass plays on first down. Bortles finished with less than half the passing yards of Roethlisberger — 214 to 469 — but, unlike his counterpart, he did not turn the ball over. He also ran five times for 35 yards.

“A lot of people like to give Blake Bortles crap and say he’s a game manager,” Williams said. “Well, he just managed the hell out of us. I have to give him some kudos. They had a good little scheme. I’m not going to hate on him.”

No, the displeasure is going to be directed at the defense. And a couple of fourth-down plays that didn’t work, unlike the ones that did — a 36-yard touchdown to Martavis Bryant on fourth-and-11 with 25 seconds remaining in the first half and a 43-yarder to Antonio Brown that made it 35-28 in the fourth quarter.

On the ensuing possession, Bortles converted a third-and-5 with a checkdown pass to running back T.J. Yeldon that turned into a 40-yard catch-and-run to the Steelers’ 30. Then he surprised the Steelers with a 14-yard touchdown pass to fullback Tommy Bohanon, who had six catches all season.

Even on the series before Brown’s spectacular touchdown, Bortles caught the defense off guard with a 45-yard pass to rookie Keelan Cole over cornerback Artie Burns to the Steelers’ 3, setting up Leonard Fournette’s third touchdown run.

“He made a couple plays, a couple big passes,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “He did a good job being consistent, not turning the ball over and keeping short fields. Tip your hat to him. We couldn’t turn over the ball and not get stops when we needed them.”

That was the other problem: Much like the first meeting in October, when the Steelers lost the turnover battle, 5-1, they did not have a takeaway to help counter Roethlisberger’s gaffes.

“All this [expletive] is going to stick in my mind,” Williams said. “You can’t go out there and have one of the worst defensive performances for the whole season in a critical game like that. That’s something we’re gonna have to deal with.

“This defense is going to come back stronger and better. That thing y’all seen, blown coverages, that [expletive] is over with. That’s a thing of the past.”

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