PITTSBURGH – At the time the score looked like a misprint.
Jacksonville 30. Pittsburgh 9.
On the road.
A result so stunningly one-sided Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stood in the locker room on that gray October afternoon only half-jokingly wondered if he still had “it.”
Throwing five interceptions, two of which the Jaguars returned for momentum-swinging, confidence-sapping touchdowns, will do that.
Yet Roethlisberger insists he’s not out for revenge in the rematch on Sunday when the Jaguars (11-6) visit Heinz Field in the divisional round with a trip to the AFC title game on the line.
There’s too much at stake for him to settle some sort of personal vendetta.
Or so he says.
“I’ll play anyone in the postseason,” Roethlisberger said.
Only Jacksonville isn’t “anyone.” Not anymore. Not after the NFL’s top-ranked defense proved that breakout performance three months ago was a sign of things to come.
The Jaguars don’t play a particularly pretty brand of football. They also don’t particularly care.
Doubt them all you want. Mock their offense at your leisure.
Last they checked, there will be 24 teams watching the playoffs this weekend and Jacksonville isn’t one of them.
“We’ve just got to score one more point than they do,” Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said.
“It doesn’t matter who scores it, where it comes from, how we do it, what it looks like, we score one more than them and I’m happy with how we did it.”
Bortles and the other 52 guys on the roster might be the only ones.
The Steelers (13-3) entered the season as one of the favorites to reach the Super Bowl.
Despite a fall filled with drama (much of it self-created) Pittsburgh was really only pushed around once. By the Jaguars.
Take Jacksonville lightly at your peril, something the Steelers found out on Oct. 8.
“Some people come in thinking a team may be easier by their record or tougher by their record, but we know that can’t be on our mind,” Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell said.
“I think that kind of got us in the first game because the Jacksonville Jaguars, they’re normally not a good team but those guys got players this year. They’ve been making plays.”
If the Jaguars can do it for another 60 minutes, they’ll reach the NFL’s final four for just the third time in franchise history.