Let's Get Physical

When Jack Del Rio arrived in Jacksonville prior to the 2003 season, he wanted to build a physical team that can run the football and stop the run, and compete with any team in any weather. A blueprint for what he was trying to build can be historically found in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers have the reputation for tough, physical play, and it's been that way for decades.

The Jaguars have been a pretty good clone of the Pittsburgh Steelers, as they have their own commitment to physical play.

"Obviously part of this team was built by Tom (Coughlin) before I got here and part of it has been continued on with me," said Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio. "I think maybe the common thread with Tom, myself, and the coaches that have been in place there is we do like physical football teams that are disciplined, that play unselfishly and do those types of things. There's some of that, but in terms of actually modeling after another team, that hasn't been my intent."

The Jaguars have been playing "Steeler football" better than Steelers, as they have registered four straight victories in the series, including two wins in Pittsburgh last season.

"I think this is a real good football team and we've been fortunate to be able to come out on top in a couple very tough ballgames," Del Rio said about the Steelers. "Like I said, we have a tremendous amount of respect for them, what they do and how they do it, so we'll get prepared to give a great effort."

The Steelers physical brand of football seemingly does more harm to their team when they get ready to play the Jaguars of late, as Pittsburgh has had a pretty banged up team when they face Jacksonville. In 2005, the Steelers were missing starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and were forced to start Tommy Maddox, and the results were disastrous. In 2006, Roethlisberger was trying to recover from a motorcycle accident, and wasn't near 100%. In the two meetings last season, the Steelers were banged up on their offensive line, and were missing both Aaron Smith and Willie Parker during the second matchup.

This season is no different as the Steelers had 14 players who missed Wednesday's practice, and will be without Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Casey Hampton, and starters Brett Keisel and Kendall Simmons. Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio doesn't believe that the Steelers are a weakened opponent, despite their injuries—

"It's a good football team. It's no different than us playing our heart out four weeks in a row to start the season ourselves. Tennessee, Buffalo, Indy, Houston—that's how we started. So there are tough confrontations each week and I'm sure they'll be geared up come Sunday."

Although the Jaguars have owned the Steelers of late, running back Fred Taylor won't take them lightly at all despite enjoying great success against the black and gold. Taylor holds the single-game rushing record at both Three Rivers Stadium and the Steelers new home, Heinz Field.

"Every year is a different challenge," Taylor said. "You cannot disrespect any opponent like that so I would never feel like that about them. I have had some pretty good games against them but that is about the most I can say about that."

If the Jaguars are going to defeat the Steelers for the fifth consecutive time Sunday night, they will have to manufacture a pass rush, which is something the team hasn't had much success doing this season. The Jaguars have registered just five sacks on the season, where the Steelers have given up 16 sacks. It's a classic matchup of weakness vs. weakness.

"We're not trying to win a stats battle, we're trying to win games," Del Rio said. So we're going to do the best we can to be effective on defense, to slow down their ability to generate offense and generate points to give our football team a chance to win…It doesn't matter who gets how many pressures, sacks, tackles, catches, runs. I don't really care about all that stuff. I do care about our football team playing well and taking care of business and recognizing we have a heck of a team in here and it's going to be a great battle, so get ourselves ready for it."

With the Steelers likely being a one-dimensional team without running back Willie Parker, the Jaguars will have to get pressure on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to upset a very good Pittsburgh passing attack. It will be up to the Jaguars again to be the more physical team.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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