Snapshot: Steelers-Jaguars

WEEK FIVE: Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/05/08
TV: NBC (Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer)
SERIES: 21st meeting. Jaguars lead the series 12-8, including victories in the past four meetings, including their only playoff meeting last January. The Steelers are 3-7 in Jacksonville, but they've won two of their past three games there since 2002.

PREDICTION: Jaguars 19-16

KEYS TO THE GAME: With the Steelers dealing with a bevy of injuries in the backfield and on the offensive line, they will likely rely heavily on the spread offense that was effective against Baltimore on Monday night. QB Ben Roethlisberger tends to hold onto the ball a bit too long, and it'll be up to him to make quick reads because he was sacked six times in the playoff loss to the Jags in January while also throwing for 337 yards. ... With their secondary banged up and the Steelers likely to attack primarily through the air, look for the Jaguars to counter with a strong emphasis on the ground game to protect the defense. Pittsburgh's fourth-ranked run defense will employ a lot of run blitzes, leaving it up to QB David Garrard to make the Steelers pay when they stack the box with eight or nine men.


RBs Willie Parker (knee), Rashard Mendenhall (shoulder) and Carey Davis (ankle) are out; DE Brett Keisel (calf), NT Casey Hampton (groin) and RG Kendall Simmons (Achilles) are out.

CB Drayton Florence and FS Reggie Nelson (knee) are uncertain.

FAST FACTS: Roethlisberger is on pace to be sacked a team record 60 times. ... Jaguars RB Fred Taylor is tied with WR Jimmy Smith (69) for the most touchdowns in franchise history.


--LB James Harrison, second in the league with 5.5 sacks, did little in practice Thursday. He has a thigh injury, but is expected to play.
--RB Mewelde Moore will make his first start for the Steelers Sunday night because of injuries that will keep Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall out. Moore had four 100-yard games in Minnesota before coming to the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent this year.
--TE Sean McHugh will serve as the fullback Sunday night because Carey Davis has a sprained ankle and will not play. McHugh has been used as an H-back in the league before the Steelers picked him up this year to be their third tight end.
--RB Najeh Davenport, who re-signed with the Steelers this week, will not play in the backfield Sunday unless there is another injury. Gary Russell will back up Moore.
--G Darnell Stapleton will start at right guard, replacing injured Kendall Simmons. Stapleton and Trai Essex were supposed to compete for the job but it has been all Stapleton this week with Essex getting only a few snaps with the first team.

--LB Justin Durant, who has missed two game with a groin injury, returned to practice on a full-time basis for the second consecutive day Thursday and is likely to play.
--S Reggie Nelson, who missed last week's game with a knee injury, didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday and his condition will be updated Friday.
--CB Drayton Florence didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday because of a previously undisclosed groin injury and his condition will be updated Friday.
--DE Reggie Hayward, who lost his starting job last week to Derrick Harvey, saw practice on a limited basis with a hamstring injury Wednesday, but practiced on a full-time basis Friday and is likely to play.
--C Brad Meester, who has yet to play this year because of a biceps injury, practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday and probably won't play.
--G Chris Naeole, who was re-signed on Sept. 17 after being waived last March with a knee injury, saw limited practice Wednesday and Thursday and probably won't play.


Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not practice for the second straight day Thursday, but he should be fine to play in Jacksonville Sunday night.

Roethlisberger has a sore right shoulder when he was bounced to the ground by Mario Williams in the opening game. He has played through it but this is the first time in two weeks he has missed two days of practice.

His health has been an issue because he has had a slight hyperextension of his knee and a sore shoulder, and he has been sacked 15 times.

The Jaguars sacked Roethlisberger 11 times in two games last season, both in Pittsburgh, one a playoff game. Roethlisberger has been the most sacked quarterback over the past two seasons -- 93 times.

"He felt a little better today," coach Mike Tomlin said after practice. "In a nutshell, he wasn't quite well enough to go, so it was another opportunity for Byron Leftwich to get some reps and we proceeded on.

"Like in recent weeks I think he's going to be fine, but we have all of the confidence in the work of Byron Leftwich if that should happen as well."

Leftwich was Jacksonville's starting quarterback from 2003 until they released him after their 2007 training camp. The Steelers signed him this summer when Charlie Batch had his collarbone broken in their first preseason game.

The Jaguars, who already have problems rushing the passer, now may face problems covering in the secondary Sunday night when they play the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That's because two starters in the secondary, safety Reggie Nelson and Drayton Florence, didn't practice for the second consecutive day Thursday. Nelson missed last week's game with a bruised knee that hasn't healed. Florence suffered a groin injury in the last drive against the Texans. He said there's a chance he'll play, but he's not sure if he can. The condition of both players will be updated Friday.

The other starting cornerback, Rashean Mathis, saw limited duty in practice for the second consecutive day after bruising a shin in the first half against Houston.

Mathis said he thinks he thinks he'll play.

The Jaguars may offset the problems in the secondary by putting more pressure on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

They only have five sacks in the first four games and rank 27th in sacks per pass attempt.

But Pittsburgh has problems in its offensive line and has given up 16 sacks this year. The Jaguars also collected 11 sacks in the two games against the Steelers last year.

If the Jaguars can't pad their sack total against the Steelers, they may have real problems.

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