Defense can't close deal

PITTSBURGH -- In the days leading up to Sunday's game, Santonio Holmes wished he could "vote 500,000 times" for his cousin to make his first Pro Bowl.

But when his cousin, Fred Taylor, was virtually salting away that bid while salting away a win over the Steelers late Sunday afternoon, Holmes felt nothing but pain.

"That was no fun at all, man," Holmes said after the Steelers lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 29-22.

Taylor rushed for 147 yards in the game and 34 of those came on four carries during the Jaguars' game-winning drive.

Taylor's 12-yard run over right guard scored the game-winning touchdown with 2:02 left and it crushed a Steelers team that had rallied from a 15-point deficit. After Heath Miller's fourth-down dive came up inches short of the stick, the Steelers had their third loss in five games.

It was also the third time this season the Steelers' normally unbreakable defense gave up a late game-winning or game-tying drive. The Steelers tied the game with 5:54 left to play, but the Jaguars then drove 73 yards in eight plays to win it.

Hello, Jets. Hello, Broncos.

"We couldn't stop the run," said nose tackle Casey Hampton. "We just couldn't stop the run. That's the bottom line. Ain't nothing else to say about it."

The Jaguars gained 224 yards on the ground – the most the Steelers have allowed since the Taylor-led Jaguars rushed for 240 against them on Nov. 19, 2006. This time, Taylor (25-147) teamed with 5-foot-7 Maurice Jones-Drew (12-69) to do the damage. It marked the fourth consecutive 100-yard game for the 31-year-old Taylor, who said after the game: "The league will probably test me in the morning."

Meanwhile, the once-proud Steelers defense is failing all of its tests of late. The Jaguars opened the drive with a 20-yard pass, but Taylor and Jones-Drew did the rest.

"They're just physical, man," Hampton said. "They've got two really good backs and they ran the ball right down our throats."

"We can't close the deal," said linebacker James Farrior. "We're not in a prevent and that's not our mindset. I don't believe that. I just believe we can't get it done. We're all out there fighting and trying, but we're getting out-executed and outplayed."

Coach Mike Tomlin called it a breakdown in fundamentals, and the Jaguars did most of their damage with its version of the counter power play, the play the Steelers run when Alan Faneca pulls right and lead a counter through the hole.

"That was the play we couldn't stop all day," Farrior said. "We missed some tackles sometimes and other times we weren't gap sound. When you're out of your gap with a guy like Fred Taylor, he's doing to kill you."

Even if you're family.

"I trained with him last year and I saw the things he's been doing, you know, preparing his self for a long season," said Holmes. "And it's really paying off for him this year."

And this year it's really killing the Steelers, whose confidence certainly lessens with each late drive that beats them.

"We weren't doubtful," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "But it seemed like we didn't have that fire that we usually have. We've got to get that back."


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