Jaguars vs. Steelers, 10 Observations: Defense keeps talented Pittsburgh offense out of end zone

The Jaguars' defense cemented itself as a top group in Jacksonville's 30-9 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday.

The unit produced five interceptions, two shy of last season's total production. It also kept the talented Steelers offense out of the end zone on its own home turf.

Internally, the Jaguars constantly say good teams don't lose two games in a row. So far this season, the Jaguars have yet to have back-to-back losses.

The Jaguars have won three games in five outings. Jacksonville won just three games all of last season.

The defense is the biggest reason why the team has been so successful this year.

There's a lot to talk about following the Jaguars' latest blowout win, so let's get to it:

1. We now know what this team is!

This Jaguars team features a pounding running game and a big play defense. That is how they will win games.

If one or neither of those traits are met, the team will lose. The Jaguars still have little to rely on with the passing game.

When the defense dominates, the offense can lean heavily on the run. That's what the outlook is for this team this season.

 

2. Jaguars give each other a high-five (of interceptions) 

The Jaguars set a franchise record with five interceptions on Sunday. It may have been the worst game of two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's career.

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey changed the game's flow with an interception late in the first quarter. He also batted a Roethlisberger pass that led to a pick six for safety Barry Church. 

Linebacker Telvin Smith's pick six in the third quarter took the wind out of the Steelers. It was a game-changer.

Free safety Tashaun Gipson, who I was very critical of last season, made two impressive interceptions in the fourth quarter to clinch the game.

The Jaguars can make plays now. They couldn't under former head coach Gus Bradley. 

The group now has 10 interceptions on the season. The team has four defenders with two or more interceptions through five games (Ramsey, Gipson, Smith and cornerback A.J. Bouye).

 

3. Fournette breaks his big run

It may not have mattered in the grand scheme of things, but rookie running back Leonard Fournette capped an already-impressive game with a 90-yard touchdown run. To that point, Fournette's career long was 17 yards.

He was constantly asked about breaking big runs over the last several weeks. His teammates and coaches were asked about it as well.

Well, Sunday, he made sure to get the big play at the end of the game. It was an embarrassing outing for the Steelers and the run just kind of elevated the "downer alert" for Heinz Field.

 

4. Lee responds after bad Jets game

Despite battling a ribs injury, wide receiver Marqise Lee was able to bounce back from a horrid performance in the Week 4 loss to the New York Jets. He only had two catches but they both went for big gains. He finished with 49 receiving yards.

 

5. Fowler continues to look like a first-round pick

There is no doubt that defensive end Dante Fowler struggled last season, his first active year in the league. This season, it's been a complete turnaround.

He sacked Roethlisberger Sunday. It was his fourth sack of the season, which was the same number he produced in 16 games last season. 

Fowler is earning more playing time and his tag team with Yannick Ngakoue on the weak-side is a tough test for any offensive line.

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6. Nortman continues to help out the defense

Jaguars punter Brad Nortman has caught fire over the last two weeks. He had five punts downed within the opponent's 20-yard line last week. This week, he pinned the Steelers three times.

Nortman has been instrumental in allowing the Jaguars to apply pressure on defense. He is giving opposing offenses a lot of field to make up. 

He shouldn't be overlooked moving forward.

 

7. Bortles has a quiet game

Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was an afterthought in this game. His lone turnover wasn't even his fault, as tight end James O'Shaughnessy had a reception ripped out of his hands.

Bortles completed 8-of-14 passes for 95 yards and the interception. This is the second time this season that he has offered a minimal output and it hasn't mattered. This was essentially a repeat of Week 1 against the Houston Texans. 

Bortles should receive some praise for not hurting the Jaguars in any way against the Steelers.

 

8. New punt returner?

The Jaguars used wide receiver Max McCaffrey as the punt returner against the Steelers. It did seem like Lee had way too much on his plate during the first four games. Adding McCaffrey to the mix makes sense.

Speaking of McCaffrey, his first career reception came against the Steelers. He gained four yards on the completion.

 

9. Brown has a nice game, but doesn't "beat" the Jaguars

The Jaguars' defense allowed Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown to catch 10 passes for 157 yards. The issue for Pittsburgh was that he didn't do anything inside the red zone. That's a big win for the Jaguars' secondary, who despite the yardage, played Brown relatively well throughout key points in the game. 

The Jaguars' secondary could be special and not just because of the interceptions.

 

10. Jaguars return home with a 3-2 record

The EverBank Field turnout will be interesting in Week 6.

Obviously, there's been controversy regarding the NFL product as of late, but this is the Jaguars' best record in quite some time. The division title is within reach and the Los Angeles Rams are a very talented team.

This should be a fun matchup for the team's second "true" home game.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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