Pittsburgh Steelers must be very wary of opportunistic Jaguars

Oct 15, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson wears a
Oct 15, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson wears a / Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

It’s one of only two games on the Week 8 schedule matching teams that both have winning records. Later Sunday, the 4-2 Seahawks host the 4-2 Browns. On Sunday in the Steel City, the AFC South-leading 5-2 Jacksonville Jaguars look to extend their current four-game winning streak at the expense of the rejuvenated 4-2 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Both of these clubs have had their share of ups and downs. Each has taken advantage of their opposition’s mistakes. To date, no team has done a better job of turning over the other team than the Jaguars.

The gift of grab

This taking away the football thing has been a big deal under head coach Doug Pederson and defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell. Keep in mind that before their arrival in 2022, the team had its issues forcing turnovers. That 2017 team that reached the AFC Championship Game totaled 33 takeaways during the regular season and five more in three playoff contests.

Jacksonville hit the skids a season later, the first of four straight last-place finishes in the AFC South. The club managed a dismal 15-50 combined record from 2018-21. In those 65 outings, the Jaguars forced just 62 turnovers. The year before Pederson’s and Caldwell’s arrivals in 2022, the team finished 3-14 and totaled a mere nine takeaways.

It’s been a different story since. In ’22, the Jaguars tripled their takeaway total (27) from the previous season. This season, Pederson’s squad has forced a league-high 16 turnovers in seven outings. Jacksonville has picked off nine passes and recovered seven opponent’s fumbles. The club has at least one takeaway in six of their seven contests. The lone exception was a stunning 37-17 home loss to the Texans in Week 3.

Settling in

Turnovers have been less of a problem for Mike Tomlin’s team as of late. Quarterback Kenny Pickett threw three interceptions in the team’s first two games and wide receiver Gunner Olszewski, no longer with the club, lost a first-quarter fumble (after a reception) in the first quarter of the Week 2 win over the Browns.

In their last four games, Pittsburgh has given up the rock just twice. In last week’s comeback win over the Rams, Tomlin’s club played turnover-free football. On Sunday afternoon, there will be a time when Styx’s “Renegade” will be played in the stadium. This week, it might not be a bad idea to request Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and their big hit “Just Hang On.”