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Josh
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After debating such classic games as Chargers-Chiefs, Bengals-Ravens and Vikings-Raiders…there was a mandate put forth from our editors to debate a game that actually mattered.  So this week, we take on the subject of the Steelers-Jaguars game…a game that many have circled as the game of the week. 

But let’s clarify two things before we begin…

“Mandate to debate a game that matters” really just means we finally disagreed about a game that matters.

And…

When we say “editors”…well…it’s really just Dan’s imaginary friend Ringo.  He’s not the best editor, but he knows what the people want.  Ringo, this one is for you!

Dan:

I'm gonna start us off with a little music.

Let me take you down, 'cuz you're coming to
Slippery fields
But here's the deal
We're never gonna use FieldTurf
Slippery fields forever. 

Home field advantage is huge for the Steelers, and if you ask me, the only reason to believe they'll win on Sunday.  They haven't lost at Heinz field yet this year.  However, those wins haven't been all that impressive.  Yeah, early in the season they beat up on the Bills, but that wasn't the good Trent Edwards Bills, it was the weak J.P. Losman Bills.  Then they killed San Francisco, becoming the first of eight in a row to do so.  They beat Baltimore and Cincinnati.  Wahoo.  The other three wins are the ones I want to focus on. 

21-0 victory over Seattle.  That's a big deal.  But still, it's not as impressive as it looks.  It was part of the Hawks' 3-3 start before they found their identity in the passing game, realizing Shaun Alexander has gone to crap.   

3-0 victory over Miami and 30-33 victory over Cleveland.  The first is obviously not impressive.  The second is, and it's the game that reveals the secret of Heinz Field, with all the other games as supporting evidence. 

It's common knowledge that it's harder to kick in Heinz Field than anywhere else in the league.  The winds and field conditions combine to make life very difficult.  It's safe to say that the same conditions would have an effect on the long passing game.  Teams that rely on the bomb as a way to defeat opponents tend to get beat.  Cleveland - they've won a lot of shootouts.  Cincinnati and Seattle - both teams have only had success when passing heavily.  In Pittsburgh, Carson Palmer completed 38% of his passes.  Matt Hasselbeck completed 48% and threw a pick.  Neither threw a touchdown.  Derek Anderson managed 3 TDs, but also completed less than 50%.   

The Jaguars use the pass to set up the run.  They're going to keep the ball on the ground, switching it up as they always do to keep the Steelers guessing, and they will succeed where the other 7 guests of Heinz field have failed.

Josh:

Oooh...look at me, I'm Dan I can modify Beatles lyrics and sound all smart... 

Well, you know what?  Anyone can do that...yep, anyone....

Yeah, I got nothing.  Was going to use "Hey Jags"...but the lyrics made no sense.  Unless, the Jags were dating someone.  Are they seeing anyone lately?  No?  Yeah, that's what I figured.  Their style of play is not one that would attract the ladies, if you know what I mean.  

Heinz Field has been huge for the Steelers, always is...and last i checked...um...yep, this game is at Henz field.  Yep, still there.  If the home field isn't enough to win it for them...and let's be honest, home field advantage is nice, but by itself, it's just a bunch of people screaming.  Last I check, no matter how hard I scream at a Bears game, it doesn't score any points for my boys.

Nope, the home field isn't going to win this game by itself...so we need something else here... 

Ah, that's right, the Steeler have a smothering run defense.  Not just smothering, downright brutal.  No, not just brutal...if they were a fat guy, and the opponent's running game was a twinkie...wait, what's the limit on using the "that's a big twinkie" in blogs?  104?  Crap.  Um...well, let's just say...they would gobble it up and not leave a crumb.

And the Jags don't use the pass to setup the run...it's the other way around, mate.  All their big pass plays come off play-action.  Last I checked, play action doesn't work if you haven't established the run.  They have a two-headed running attack that churns through teams...but the Steelers have the linebackers to fly to the ball and put the Jags on their backs,  

Let's take a peek at the teams that beat the Steelers...Cards, Jets, Pats, Broncos...what was the common theme in the wins?  They all THREW the ball against them.  Next, what is the common thread between those teams?  They all have good to great wide receivers.  Now, let's look at the Jags...what do they have in the way of WRs?  Wow...a collection of guys that would get lost in their own house.  Not a single game breaker or reliable hands among them.

The Jags have the running game...but that's not going to cut mustard against the Steelers.  And when forced to pass, their receivers don't have the chops to beat the Steelers DBs one on one. 

Dan:

Well, clearly you're the egg man to my walrus.

When you say the Jags have "a collection of guys that would get lost in their own house.  Not a single game breaker or reliable hands among them," are you basing that upon watching them play, or just what the fantasy "gurus" have told you over the years?  

Here's the thing about the Jags' receivers.  True, there's not a #1 in the bunch.  But all of them are just fine #2s.  And when I've seen them play this year, I've actually been impressed with their hands.  Garrard throws that thing hard, and he wouldn't be completing 65% if his guys were drop-happy. 

Jack Del Rio makes you THINK they're using the run to set up the pass, but they're doing the opposite - they're using the run to set up the play action to set up the run some more!  Ha-HA! 

When your running backs are Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, both of whom are great at making extra yardage in very different ways, they ARE your focus.  They're the main weapon.

Also, the Steelers may be #1 in rush defense, by plenty, but they haven't beaten a rushing offense anywhere near the Jags all season.  The best-ranked running game they've faced was #6 Denver, who they lost to.  Next was #14 New England, whose rushing yards mostly have come in garbage time when they didn't feel like running up the score, and they lost to them anyway.  After that it's #16 Buffalo, who they beat while Marshawn Lynch was still adjusting to the NFL game.  Jacksonville is #2, 15 YPG better than the Broncos, and 33 better than the Bills.  And NONE of the teams Pittsburgh has faced uses two backs in tandem, so they haven't been tested on that this year.   

Taking a break from debating - you know what's great?  Whether the Jags win or lose, there's good news.  Assuming they get the #5 seed, if they lose, the Steelers will probably be #3, and they won't have to play them in the playoffs.  If they win, the Steelers might end up #4, and they get to play them again in the playoffs. 

Coo coo cachoo. 

Josh:

Listen eggman, me and my monkey take offense to this whole train of thought.  And we know you've got something to hide.

What are "fantasy gurus"?  Is that something you just made up?  Or some mythical creature in the land of Narnia?  By now you know that I can't read...wait, scratch that...I choose not to read any "gurus".  Nope, all of my fantastic statements come from the crypt that is my brain.  And in watching the Jags, I always come away impressed with 90% of the team.  But what I see in the WRs is that they aren't players that can beat a DB on their own.  They need the play action, they need the running game.  Never said anything bad about their hands, and I don't question their desire...but you said it yourself, they are a collection of #2 WRs.  Let me clue you into something...  

The difference between a #2 and #1 WR?  A #1 WR will always get his.  He can beat the double team, he can beat a DB 1 on 1, and he doesn't need help to make it happen.  A #2 WR is a very talented player, but he can't do all those things...he needs the system to feed him, without it...he's just a fast guy, with good hands...covered by another fast guy.

While I agree that the level of competition that Pitt has faced has not been up to the Jags level of running...they have still dominated lesser running teams, and they have always had a great run defense.  This year is no exception.  Will the Jags fair better against them running the ball than say the Bills?  Sure.  Will they do as well as they have all year?  No.  

And that's what's great about games like this late in the year, so much is riding on it, both teams will be pulling out all the stops.  Do you think the Jags would rather play the Steelers or the Norv Turner led Chargers?

And, because it fit... 

Joshy burst in and grinning a grin
He said Danny boy this is a showdown
But Daniel was hot-he drew first and shot
And Joshy collapsed in the corner.

Wait a sec, that didn't end very well for me...crap...well...um...heck with it, I'm going to go hang with my monkey some more. 

Dan:

Rocky Raccoon, huh?  That was unexpected.  But I liked the ending.

All right, first of all, sir, you DID say something bad about the WRs' hands; you said "Not a single game breaker or reliable hands among them."  There.  I have thrust my gauntlet upon the earth in challenge to you, do you accept?  I WILL defend your honor, Ernest Wilford!  

So you're calling Reggie Williams, Dennis Northcutt, and Ernest Wilford system guys?  Okay, I accept that.  But last I checked, they're still in that system, so what's the point? 

And yes, the Steelers have always had a good run defense.  But take a look at last year's Steelers-Jags game.  Fred Taylor pulled off nearly 100 yards, and it was enough to beat them, 9-0.  They spread the ball around to the WRs, racked up 260 passing yards, and it only got them 3 field goals, but that was enough.  

Granted, Ben Roethlisberger wasn't healthy that game.  With the motorcycle accident and the appendectomy, he wasn't himself.  Ah, but he's not healthy now, either.  His right shoulder is sore, and he's been held out of practice two days in a row.  Ben's right-handed, right? 

I don't think we've spent enough time talking about the Jags' defense.  They've got the #5 rushing defense in the league, and held Willie Parker to 20 yards last year.  And both teams are going to need to run the ball a lot on a messy Heinz Field.  It's going to get predictable, so give me the team that can at least switch up who's getting the carry.   

And when they do pass the ball, sure, Pittsburgh doesn't allow a lot of passing yards, but they don't have much of a playmaking secondary.  They're 31st in the league in interceptions with 8.  The Jaguars have twice as many - their safeties alone match Pittsburgh's total.  And of course, Roethlisberger has thrown 11 times as many picks as Garrard.  Also, his O-line isn't doing a very good job protecting him - you can expect Paul Spicer and Reggie Hayward to stick him in the mud a few more times than he'd like.  The Steelers, on the other hand, haven't gotten many sacks lately. 

Here come Fred Taylor, he come jukin' so quickly
He got Maurice Jones-Drew he one powerful runner
He got feet down below his knees
When he throws a stiff-arm he can do what he please 

So, lovely Rita Meter Maid, just Let it Be.  Or Something.

Josh:

Rocky Raccoon is by far my favorite Beatles song...so I had to work it in there some way...to bad, it didn't work out for me in the end. 

By the way, to anyone listening...yes, both of you...I want it known that Dan started this whole Beatles' lyrics thing...it is all on him.  Why he did it, we'll never know...but he did it...and now...well...you see the mess I have to deal with?

Just got this great image, of Ernest Wilford in damsel in distress outfit, with a brave Dan vowing to protect her...er...him.  Classic image...wait, let me savor it a second longer....yep, still makes me laugh. 

Dan, for someone that has constantly chastised me for bringing up the past in games like this, I'm shocked you'd bring up last year's contest as proof the Jags will win.  While it helps give a little perspective, it's not a trump card to play...it's at best a supporting actor.  It's okay if I mix my metaphors like that, right?

Ben is right handed, I'm glad you're aware of it.  I've known all along that you've been stalking Big Ben...you have a big poster of him above your bed don't you.  Probably know his favorite color, where his birth mark is, and that he really considers himself a poet but football pays the bills.  But we're talking about a guy that get in a life threatening motorcycle accident, then had his appendix removed...and still played last year.  And you think a little sore shoulder is going to hold him out of a late season game?  

You're right, the Jags D is good.  They are an opportunistic bunch, and a team I like watching play D.  But they are going into the cold, and the muck of Heinz field...and the Steelers lineman are going to have the advantage on them this time.  And the Steelers do plenty of RB rotating...you've met Najeh Davenport, right?  The Thunder to Parker's Lightning.  The Mac Truck to Parker's Feirorarri.  The Bee to Willie's Butterfly.  The Vin Disel to....well, I could keep rolling these out all day, but you get the point.

Reggie and Paul can come on into the backfield all they want...have you watched a Steelers game this year?  They wear yellow and black...nope, Terry Bradshaw is not their QB anymore Dan.  He's a talking head on Fox now.  Big Ben does a great job of buying time, and still looking down field.  He also seems to make some of his biggest plays when the play breaks down.  His WRs know to keep working and come back to him, and they do time and again.

Here's what I think of you bringing up last year's game... 

Yesterday,
All my troubles seemed so far away,
Now it looks as though they're here to stay,
Oh, I believe in yesterday. 

Take that you...you...beefamato!  Yeah, I had nothing.

Dan:

Ugh... Beefamato has infested this blog too? 

I only brought up last year because you brought up how Pittsburgh's been doing this for years, that they've always had a great run defense.  So I said, okay, same defense as last year, against the same running backs, this is something from the past I can actually bring up.

Sure, Ben does a great job of buying time... except he's still been sacked more than anyone in the league not named Jon Kitna.   

And finally, you bring up the Jags coming into the cold.  Will they be any worse off than Miami? 

That's all from me - gotta go now, newspaper taxis have appeared on the shore, waiting to take me awaaaaaaay. 

Josh:

Infested?  Infested?  It's now the official drink of FanNation.  We've been tabbed to do 2 promotional spots for it, so start drinking it buddy.

Sure, you can bring it up...I just don't have to listen. 

But he's not named Jon Kitna?  Oh, wait...just got that.  I get it.  So Jon Kitna would get sacked alot if he played for the Steelers?  Don't see how that's related...but sure, I'll agree with you there.

Well, no, both these teams would be better off spending the day in Miami.  I know I would.

That's all for me as well...cause...Sunday's on the phone to Monday, Tuesday's on the phone to me, and Tuesday just keeps yapping, won't shut up...

-----

What more needs to be said?  Well, you could say hello…and I could say goodbye.  But let me just say, with all the snow here in the Northeast, it’s been a hard days night…and I’ll be sleeping like a dog.

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