Steelers move to 10-0
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Used to be, the only thing that smelled worse than a Steelers performance in this northern Florida town were the paper mills.
Well, the paper mills have been gone for a while. But the Steelers lackluster performances are not.
The good news for the Steelers is the Jacksonville Jaguars were worse. Much worse.
The Steelers scratched out three touchdowns and a pair of Chris Boswell field goals against the AFC's worst scoring defense but still managed a 27-3 victory against the Jaguars that ran their unbeaten record to a franchise-best 10-0.
The defense held the Jaguars to a field goal on the opening possession of the game, and that was it. They held the Jaguars to 206 yards offense and pressured and befuddled Jaguars rookie quarterback Jake Luton into four interceptions - two each by safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds.
The Steelers running game at least showed some signs of life after Mike Tomlin promised a better effort. James Conner rushed for 89 yards on 13 carries, thanks to runs of 25 and 17 yards.
The Jaguars had the worst scoring defense in the AFC, allowing an average of 30.1 points per game, but the Steelers offense struggled for most of the game with the exception of two touchdown drives near the end of the first half.
Their only touchdown in the second half came on a 20-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to tight end Eric Ebron with 6:40 remaining — a score that was set up by the second of Edmunds' interceptions.
Roethlisberger completed 32 of 46 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns - the fourth time in the past five games he has attempted more than 42 passes. He was intercepted once - on the final play of the first half - his first interception in four games.
Receiver Diontae Johnson got most of the attention, catching 12 passes for 111 yards and being targeted 16 times. But rookie Chase Claypool had his eighth receiving touchdown of the season when he caught a 31-yard touchdown from Roethlisberger that gave the Steelers a 10-3 lead in the second quarter.
After an indifferent start that included Boswell's first missed field goal of the season, the Steelers put together back-to-back scoring drives at the end of the first half to take a 17-3 halftime lead.
They looked as though they might add another late score after an interception by Edmunds gave them the ball at their own 29 with 29 seconds remaining. The Steelers got as far as the Jaguars 24, thanks to a 23-yard pass interference penalty against cornerback Chris Claybrooks, but Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone by safety Daniel Thomas as time expired. It was Roethlisberger's first interception in four games. He didn't misfire on the previous two scoring drives, however, completing 8 of 9 passes for 95 yards, including the touchdown to Claypool.
The Jaguars came right back and moved to the Steelers 11, but Luton's pass was tipped at the line by nose tackle Tyson Alualu, a No. 1 draft choice of the Jaguars, and intercepted and returned 37 yards by Fitzpatrick.
Roethlisberger then connected for 20 yards on third-and-10 to Johnson, who made a nice diving catch; and then for 23 yards again to Johnson, who this time made a bobbling catch at the Jaguars 1. Benny Snell scored one play later to make it 17-3.
The Steelers failed to sack Luton in the first half, but he completed just 7 of 19 passes for 87 yards.