Steelers come up short vs. Jaguars, 31-29

Much as they did in last month's loss to the Jaguars, the Steelers spotted Jacksonville a big second-half lead before mounting a furious comeback.

And just as they did in December's 29-22 victory over the Steelers, the Jaguars teased Pittsburgh before ripping its heart out.

Josh Scobee's 25-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining to lift Jacksonville to a 31-29 victory Saturday night at Heinz Field in the opening round of the AFC playoffs.

The Steelers overcame a slow first-half start by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to storm back from a 28-10 deficit to take a 29-28 lead just over halfway through the fourth quarter.

But Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard, who threw for just 140 yards, broke a 32-yard run on fourth-and-two from the Pittsburgh 43-yard line with less than two minutes to play to set up Scobee's game-winning field goal.

Jacksonville advances to the divisional round of the AFC playoffs, where it will face either New England or Indianapolis next weekend.

The Steelers finish the season with a 10-7 record in head coach Mike Tomlin's first season.

After throwing three first-half interceptions, Roethlisberger completed 17 of 23 passes in the second half for 263 yards and two touchdowns. He finished with 337 yards passing. But it was a conservative offensive series with four minutes remaining in the game that doomed the Steelers.

After taking the one-point lead and forcing the Jaguars to punt, Pittsburgh got the ball back at its own 22 and ran the ball three consecutive times – including a third-down keeper by Roethlisberger – to give the Jaguars the ball back at midfield.

The Steelers cut through the Jacksonville defense like a knife through butter on their opening possession to score on a one-yard touchdown plunge by Najeh Davenport. The Jaguars then quickly exploited what has been Pittsburgh's weak spot throughout the season to regain momentum.

Maurice Jones-Drew returned Pittsburgh's ensuing kickoff 96 yards to 1 and Fred Taylor scored from there to tie the game at 7-7.

Cornerback Rashean Mathis provided the Jaguars with a 14-7 lead, intercepting a pass intended for Santonio Holmes and returning it 63 yards for a touchdown with 10:19 remaining in the second quarter.

At that point, Jacksonville had scored two touchdowns despite having just 33 yards of offense.

The Steelers punted on their ensuing possession and Jacksonville finally hit a big play. Garrard passed to Jones-Drew out of the backfield and he beat safety Tyrone Carter down the sideline for a 43-yard TD catch and a 21-7 lead.

The Steelers got the ball back two more times after that in the second half, but both ended in Roethlisberger interceptions.

The first was a second by Mathis at midfield, while the third came late in the first half with the Steelers driving. Roethlisberger's attempted screen pass was picked off by Jacksonville defensive lineman Derek Landri after Pittsburgh had driven to the Jacksonville 21.

But linebacker James Farrior intercepted Garrard Jacksonville's first offensive play of the second half and the Steelers turned that into a 28-yard field goal by Jeff Reed to trim the deficit to 21-10.

Jacksonville answered with a 10-yard run by Jones-Drew on a drive helped along by a 15- yard facemask penalty on Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor.

Pittsburgh came right back, however, going to its no-huddle offense.

And when Roethlisberger threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Holmes on fourth-and-12 on the first play of the fourth quarter – with Holmes breaking two tackles to break free – the Steelers trimmed the lead to 28-17.

Jacksonville went three-plays-and-out on its next possession – inexplicably throwing the ball on all three plays – and Roethlisberger pulled the Steelers to within five points with a 13-yard TD pass to tight end Heath Miller with 10:25 left in the game.

The Steelers went for a two-point conversion and Roethlisberger's fade pass to Hines Ward was completed, but center Sean Mahan was penalized for holding on the play and Roethlisberger was stopped short of the goal on the second attempt.

Taylor then intercepted a Garrard pass and returned it deep into Jacksonville territory to set up a one-yard Davenport TD run to lift the Steelers to a 29-28 lead with 6:21 to play.


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