Behind Enemy Lines: Steelers-Jaguars

Charlie Bernstein of took the time to answer our readers' questions about Sunday night's game between the Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Q: What's happened to their pass rush/defense that has only 5 sacks right now this season and the worst 3rd down % in the AFC? Are Quentin Groves and Derrick Harvey struggling? Do they miss Marcus Stroud more than they realized they would? Will they blitz the Steelers like everyone else?

A: Pass rush was a problem entering the season for the Jaguars and they were expecting a pair of rookies to be the answer. Groves is purely a pass-rusher who is a major liability against the run, and Harvey missed all of training camp with his contract holdout. Both players have undeniable talent, but they need to figure out how to play at the NFL level.

As for the third down percentage, there are plenty of holes on that defense that are exaggerated by not having a pass rush. Drayton Florence has been a target for opposing offenses, as has middle linebacker Mike Peterson.

The loss of Marcus Stroud hasn't been felt greatly, as Rob Meier and Tony McDaniel have matched or exceeded Stroud's level of play.

Regarding the defensive game plan, I can;t imagine the Jaguars not blitzing a Pittsburgh offensive line that has had problems protecting its quarterback.

Q: David Garrard is struggling - with more interceptions already than he had all of last regular season. Have teams learned how to defend him? Why all the sacks?

A: Garrard began the season playing miserably, as he was holding the ball too long and then throwing into coverage. In the last two weeks, Garrard has stepped his game up and you can see his confidence growing. The Jaguars' signal caller has always benefitted from a great running game, and this year teams are stacking up the box to take that away. Pittsburgh showed that game plan in last season's playoffs, as they had Troy Polamalu at the line of scrimmage. Part of it is on the wide receivers, as they are mostly average, and part of it is on Garrard, but he has been better of late.

Q: Is the investment in the new WRs panning out? Right now Matt Jones is their leading WR (a guy many thought would be cut) while Dennis Northcutt, Troy Williamson and Jerry Porter combined have less than half the catches of Jones (8 vs 21). Is Porter 100 percent?

A: Jerry Porter played in his first game last Sunday and was only targeted one time. He looked to be running well, but only the medical staff knows how far along he actually is. Matt Jones has resurrected his career and is turning into a great possession receiver. Troy Williamson hasn't really seen the field as he's been nicked up quite a bit. A guy to watch is Jaguars wide receiver Mike Walker, he may have the most talent at the position on the team.

Q: Rashean Mathis kills the Steelers. How limited do you expect him to be Sunday night?

A: Rashean missed most of the Houston game with a bruised shin. He is expected to practice this week and play on Sunday. The Jaguars don't have enough depth to stop anyone without Mathis, so his presence will be a necessity.

Q: How does the OL look with those injuries? Is Brad Meester going to play? Will they be able to run at will against the Steelers defensive front?

A: The Jaguars' offensive line has played better each week following a horrible start to the season as they lost both Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams for the year in the opener. The team signed guard Milford Brown off the street three days prior to their second game, and Brown has been better than expected. Reserve guard Uche Nwaneri and center Dennis Norman have been very serviceable.

Meester has practiced the last two weeks and will likely be a game time decision.

I believe the Jaguars will have trouble running the football as Pittsburgh will load up the box and force the game on David Garrard's arm. Jacksonville will have to throw early to set up the run late.

Q: The Jags seem to have a problem covering TE's. Do you see a big night for Heath Miller?

A: I can't remember any time in the team's history where they were able to cover good or even average tight ends. Heath Miller is a major mismatch as he can beat any of the Jaguars linebackers or safeties. I can easily see 100+ yards from Miller including one or two trips in the end zone.

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.

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