No matter, Gabbert will start his fourth consecutive game at quarterback for the Jaguars, and the first-round draft pick is coming off his best one yet. He completed 15 of 28 for 221 yards and a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday.
His 91.5 passer rating wasn't enough for a win, though. The Jaguars have lost all three games the rookie has started.
"He's young but that's what makes him more dangerous because he can learn," said Steelers defensive end Ziggy Hood. "He has a lot of time to grow. I think he's capable of getting them there."
Hood was a teammate of Gabbert's at Missouri. Hood was a senior when Gabbert was a true freshman who threw only 13 passes as a backup to Chase Dnaiel.
Gabbert started 26 games the next two seasons and compiled an 18-8 record. He was praised by draft analysts for his 6-4½, 234-pound frame, mobility, strength and quick release. He was criticized for his three-quarters release, panicking when his primary receiver was covered, and for not wanting to be hit.
The Jaguars traded up six spots in the draft to take Gabbert with the No. 10 selection in the first round.
"I kept my eyes on him after I left," Hood said. "He's good. He makes smart decisions. When in trouble, his legs can get him away from it."
Hood said the Steelers' plan is to "get back there and try to frustrate him like every other quarterback. Hopefully we'll get him to make bad decisions."
Gabbert has been sacked nine times this season and has thrown only two interceptions.
LEBEAU VS. ROOKIE QBS
In Dick LeBeau's current stint as defensive coordinator, the Steelers are 11-1 against rookie quarterbacks with an average score of 25-11. The composite rookie passer rating in those 12 games is 47.5.
The only rookie quarterback to lead his team to a win over LeBeau and the Steelers was Troy Smith, who led the Baltimore Ravens to a 27-21 win in the meaningless 2007 regular-season finale. Joe Flacco, John Beck and Eli Manning lost three-point games to the Steelers as rookies.
FROM PONY TO STALLION
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin greeted receiver Mike Wallace at the locker room following last Sunday's win by calling him his given name of Burnell.
"I'm calling you Burnell from now on because you've grown up," said Tomlin, who used to call Wallace "one-trick pony."
Wallace has been targeted 38 times this season and has caught 30 passes, giving him a catch rate of 79 percent. It ranks better than any wide receiver in the league with more than 20 catches, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is finding it more difficult to get Wallace the ball.
"They double him, rolling guys up to him. They're really keeping an eye on him," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "It's getting harder and harder to give him the ball. We've got to find ways to do it. … I always tell him, ‘Stay with me. We'll get you the ball.' As the selfless team player he is, I don't think he minds too much because usually it means the other guys are open."
The Steelers will be without five starters and two key reserves today. Ruled out of the game are starters RT Marcus Gilbert (shoulder), NT Casey Hampton (shoulder), OLB James Harrison (eye), LG Chris Kemoeatu (knee) and DE Aaron Smith, along with reserves OLB Jason Worilds (quad) and RB Mewelde Moore.
Ruled out for Jacksonville are starting OLB Clint Session (elbow) and reserves RB Montell Owens (knee) and G Jason Spitz (quad). Starting CB Derek Cox (groin) is doubtful. Questionable are starting LT Eugene Monroe (shoulder) and three-time Pro Bowl special-teamer Kassim Osgood (hamstring).
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians on the play of fullback/tight end David Johnson:
"He's doing extremely well at both spots. He's a load at the line of scrimmage and he's nifty enough to play out of the backfield. All our counter plays, he's usually leading the way and he's doing a really good job. Solid, just like we knew he would be."
Maurice Jones-Drew on his fantasy team:
"I don't want to talk about it, man. My number-one pick isn't playing well enough for me to win right now. I got to put him aside. And yes, that's me."