Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has observed how the Pittsburgh Steelers have operated over the last several years. Marrone is preparing for a fight against the AFC North squad.
On Wednesday, the head coach said the Jaguars will be challenged on all three phases against the Steelers.
"You have to really play physical," Marrone said. "They are a physical football team. When you look at the other side of the ball, defensively, it is the same thing. The production remains the same. The names just change, it seems, over the course of the years. They do an outstanding job."
Marrone has plenty of experience against the Steelers. He has faced them in the regular season, postseason and has even taken part in scrimmages with Pittsburgh.
He knows Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin well enough to expect serious challenges from all ends in Week 5.
"It is going to be a difficult game," Marrone said. "We will have a good week of practice starting today. We are going to focus and we will put a good plan together and we will go up there and play.”
The Jaguars have one of the best secondaries in the NFL, but Marrone calls Steelers pass catcher Antonio Brown "probably the best receiver in the league" in recent years. The Steelers also have size-speed mismatch Martavis Bryant and rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster at the wide receiver position.
This may be the toughest coverage challenge yet for the Jaguars, especially with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.
“Shuster is good, even the other guys that they have are threats with [Justin] Hunter and everything," Marrone said. "It’s a pick your poison type thing. I think the quarterback is good enough to know where the matchups are, what’s going on, reads coverages well, he’s been doing it for a long period of time, so we’ve got to do a good job no matter who winds up on them.”
Along with the passing game, Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell poses another problem for Jacksonville. The Jaguars are allowing a league-worst 5.7 yards per carry. The defense gave up 256 rushing yards in last week's loss to the New York Jets.
Bell is among the best backs in the league and his running style could lead to some big plays against the Jaguars.
"Every running back has their own style, so it is hard to compare them to anyone else," Marrone said. "[Bell] has been extremely successful. Very difficult, very patient, good burst, very good out of the backfield. There is a reason why he is a Pro Bowl running back. You can see that on tape. He is very consistent. It will be a challenge, obviously, after what we have been doing and our rush defense."
The defensive challenges are very apparent with the Steelers' offense entering the game at Heinz Field.
However, the Steelers' defense also brings a level of concern, according to Marrone. He is not overlooking the challenges brought on by Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Keith Butler's unit.
"[Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier] is probably playing as well as any linebacker in the league right now," Marrone said. "I think he is outstanding, along with everyone else up front. They are very strong handed players. A couple years ago we went and practiced against them for a couple days, so I have a good feel of how good and how strong they are and what they do. All three phases are going to be a challenge."
The Jaguars locker room subscribes to the adage "good teams don't lose two games in a row." This matchup will go a long way in proving just how good the Jaguars could be this season.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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