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Tim Benz: Steelers will get revenge on Jaguars, but it won't come easily

| Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, 7:03 p.m.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talks with Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles after their game Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, at Heinz Field.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talks with Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles after their game Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, at Heinz Field.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roetlisberger after throwing a third-quarter pick against the Jaguars Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers quarterback Ben Roetlisberger after throwing a third-quarter pick against the Jaguars Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017 at Heinz Field.

“C'mon! Big Ben isn't going to throw five picks again versus Jacksonville!”

Um, no. But against that top-rated pass defense, he might throw one or two.

“Pfft! Leonard Fournette isn't going to go off for 180 yards again.”

Again, no. But could you see him getting 110-120?

“Are you serious!? There's no way Blake Bortles throws for only 95 yards and wins again.”

Yeah, well, he just threw for 87 and won last week.

“Please! There's no way Le'Veon Bell is held to under 50 yards on the ground again.”

I doubt it, too. But are you sure he's going to get 100?

Don't get me wrong. I'm with the masses in Pittsburgh.

I'm picking the Steelers to beat the Jaguars in Sunday's divisional round game at 1 p.m.

Like most football fans along the three rivers, I see the Black and Gold returning serve against Jacksonville after the Jaguars pounded the Steelers, 30-9, at Heinz Field earlier in the season.

I just don't see it being the 180-degree flip many are assuming.

It's a long way from a minus-21 point differential to a plus-1, let alone some of the predictions I've heard this week of the Steelers winning by two or three touchdowns.

Those numbers I outlined above are fluky. Those statistical anomalies are why Jacksonville won in a rout the first time. However, if the stats in question end up being more conventional — as suggested above — can't you see Jacksonville still winning by a field goal?

It's not out of the question.

In 2007, Mike Tomlin's first year as Steelers coach, Jacksonville came to Pittsburgh on Dec. 16 and rushed for 224 yards and beat his club by a touchdown. Along the way, they sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times. That was an opening act for a playoff rematch on the North Side on Jan. 5.

“That'll never happen again!” So cried the Terrible Towel-twirling faithful.

They were right. It didn't. But Jacksonville still rushed for 135 yards, picked up six sacks and beat the Steelers, 31-29, ending their season.

“You know how we turn it up in the playoff games,” defensive end Stephon Tuitt said. “The intensity level rises. People are more focused on the task at hand.”

Steelers fans better hope this team follows through on that theory better than that club under Tomlin in his rookie season.

During his usual Tuesday news conference, Tomlin made it sound as if he is expecting a very similar Jaguars team in Round 2.

“They have as clearly a defined a mode of operation as anyone in this (playoff) field in terms of how they play,” Tomlin said. “They run the ball. They control the clock. They have corresponding play action passes. They play formidable defense. They create turnovers. And that's how games unfold for them.”

For those expecting a complete reversal of Game 1, here's another statistical blip that could aid the Steelers.

Sure, the Jaguars are great at forcing turnovers. Their 33 takeaways during the regular season were second most in the NFL.

The Jaguars only gave away the ball once in that game. That's counter to the 23 times they did so in the regular season. Tennessee was the only playoff team with more turnovers (25).

Given Bortles' inaccuracy last week against Buffalo and his five interceptions over the last two weeks of the regular season, bet on the Steelers picking off at least one or two passes Sunday.

“They've done a great job of playing in the plus in terms of the turnovers,” Tomlin said. “We can't allow that to happen if this game is going to unfold in the manner in which we need it to.”

Steelers fans anticipating an easy victory can pluck some low-hanging fruit: last year's playoff rematch against the Dolphins.

Miami drop-kicked Pittsburgh, 30-15, in October. The Steelers returned the favor, 30-12, in the playoffs.

Let's point out, though, that the first game for the Steelers was on the road. Also, Miami came to Pittsburgh in the playoffs with Matt Moore as the quarterback, not Ryan Tannehill.

A similar turn of events could happen this time around versus the Jags.

Don't count on it, though. If the Steelers win — as they should — it won't be easy. Probably by a touchdown or less.

We all know Tomlin has referred to the Patriots as “the elephant in the room” in the past. That's a good description.

But Jacksonville is no mouse in the corner.

Tim Benz hosts the Steelers pregame show on WDVE and ESPN Pittsburgh. He is a regular host/contributor on KDKA-TV and 105.9 FM.

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