Sacksonville. Do not act like this is the first time you’ve heard that word. Yes, even though the Jacksonville Jaguars finished 2017 second in the NFL in sacks produced, trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Jaguars defense has adopted the name “Sacksonville.” You have to give it to them, it rolls off the tongue better than “Sacksburgh” or “Pittsack”
Even with the Jaguars finishing in second in the league in sacks, it is clear that their pressure has aided them in finishing second in takeaways, first in yards per play allowed, and first in defensive efficiency.
Matchup Spotlight: Pittsburgh Steelers tackles vs. Jaguars defensive ends
The Jaguars do this by getting a lot of pressure from the edges. Calais Campbell, Yannick Nguake, and Dante Fowler all move around the line, but all attack tackles, and tight ends from the outside. Of the 55 sacks that the Jaguars have put up this year, 33 have come from players wreaking havoc off of the edges. These sacks have come against tackles, tight ends, and unblocked blitzes due to overwhelming pressure off of the edge. The Jaguars win by attacking these spots.
On the flip side, if there is a way to get after Ben Roethlisberger, it will come on the edges. Ben Roethlisberger has stayed upright more in the last two seasons than ever before. The 21 sacks he succumbed to this season is the third-best mark of his career and second best sack rate.
However, of those 21, 15.5 have come under pressure off of the edges. This features 7.5 allowed by Alejandro Villanueva, four allowed by Chris Hubbard, two by Marcus Gilbert, one by Jesse James, and one situation in which a player came in unblocked off of the edge. Three of those sacks given up on the outside can be chalked up to coverage sacks. However, six of the Jaguars 33 sacks from the edge were coverage sacks as well.
Quick aside- how good is the combination of Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro? Le’Veon Bell allowed a sack this season as well meaning the interior trio is responsible for 3.5 sacks this season.
The other thought is that while pass protection is not a weakness for Pittsburgh, the kink in their armor just so happens to be the strength of the Jaguars defense.
How the Steelers protect their edges and keep Ben Roethlisberger clean is going to be the biggest factor in this game. Last time the Pittsburgh Steelers played, Roethlisberger threw five interceptions. However, the talent of the defense had a lot more to do with that than the actual play and decision making of Roethlisberger. Two were almost directly linked to pressure.
Yes, most of those interceptions were fluky and unlikely to be repeated. At the same time, if the pressure remains the same, good results are going to find ways to rear their ugly head.