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Talking Points: Jaguars vs. Steelers

The Jaguars face the Steelers for the third time in ten months. After two wins in Pittsburgh last season–once in the regular season and once in the playoffs–the Jaguars host Ben Roethlisberger and company on Sunday night.

Here are the story lines I’ll be following before, during and after the game:

1. Pressuring the quarterback. The Jaguars knew after last year that they had to upgrade the pass rush. That’s why they traded up to draft Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves. So far this year, the pass rush hasn’t been there. Only five sacks in four games. But last year against the Steelers, the Jags, for some reason, looked like a different team. They sacked Big Ben 11 times in two games. Can the Jaguars get to Roethlisberger Sunday night?

2. Can the Jaguars Run? Can the Steelers? Both teams are dealing with injuries on the offensive line, but at least the Jaguars have (mostly) healthy running backs. The Steelers are without their top two running backs, Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, who are both injured. I don’t think the Steelers are going to be able to run against the Jaguars, so that could help the pass rush. It also puts the game on Big Ben’s shoulders.

3. Troy Polamalu. The Steelers safety played hurt most of last year, but this year, he’s back to his dominant self. Jack Del Rio compared him to Bob Sanders, in terms of the impact he has on his defense. Polamalu wasn’t healthy during the games against the Jaguars last year, and that limited his effectiveness. When healthy, he’s a difference maker on defense for Pittsburgh.

4. Will Leftwich see the Field? If Big Ben leaves the game, Leftwich, the former Jaguars starter, would be the next man in. What would the reaction be of the Jaguars defense? How would the crowd react? I’m not wishing injury on anyone, but I would love to see the drama play out.

5. Jaguars 3rd down defense. Last week against Houston, the Jaguars couldn’t stop the Texans on 3rd down. They need to “get off the field.” But 3rd down is when Roethlisberger’s improvisational skills usually show up the most.

6. Sea of teal or terrible towels? Once upon a time, the Jaguars fans were overwhelmed by Steelers fans when the two teams played here in Jacksonville. Jack Del Rio has called for a “Sea of Teal” on Sunday night to try to block out all of the Pittsburgh fans’ Terrible Towels.

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