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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 Youth Fred Warner Jersey , 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.
Some things to look for as the Jaguars try to pull off a second stunner against a team that believes its season is destined to end with a trip to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl.
AB’s BACK: Pittsburgh All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown is expected to play after missing the final 2+ games of the regular season with a left calf contusion. Brown practiced all week Jordan Staal Jersey , though he was sent home on Friday because of an illness.
Brown caught 10 passes for 157 yards in the first meeting with Jacksonville and his return means all of Pittsburgh’s ”Killer Bs” will be ready to go.
”If he’s out there, I expect him to be AB,” Steelers cornerback Joe Haden said.
LEONARD’S LEAP: Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette hammered the Steelers for a season-high 181 yards in October, including a 2-yard touchdown leap and a 90-yard sprint to the end zone in the final two minutes that sealed it. Fournette’s production has dipped in recent weeks. He’s only averaged higher than 3.9 yards per carry once over the past eight weeks, though Bortles doesn’t think Fournette has smacked into the rookie wall.
”There has obviously been some hiccups and bumps in the road with different things,” Bortles said. ”It’s not on him, it’s on guys up front, it’s on me getting us in the right play, receivers blocking. It’s on everyone.”
CHILL OUT DUDE: Temperatures are expected to be in the teens at kickoff, a decided departure for the Jaguars.
While Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone downplayed the elements, Bell believes he has an advantage when the mercury drops.
A year ago against Miami in the wild-card round, he pounded the Dolphins for 167 yards and two touchdowns as the temperature hovered around 17 degrees.
”It definitely affects guys who are tackling,” Bell said. ”That’s why when it’s cold outside I take a lot of pride because I know guys don’t want to tackle.”
COACH SHAY: Injured Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier spent some time at the team’s facility this week, getting around in a wheelchair while recovering from spinal stabilization surgery last month following a hit against Cincinnati that left his lower body motionless.
Shazier’s presence has provided the Steelers with a boost, and while his football career is likely over, he remains intent on finding a way to contribute. Shazier Jabaal Sheard Jersey , who would get to work as early as 6 a.m. to break down film when he was playing, is now serving as equal parts advance scout and motivational speaker.
”He loves football so much,” guard David DeCastro said. ”It’s amazing to see and just to have the attitude he has after all he’s been through man, it’s pretty impressive. I don’t know if I’d be able to do the same.”
By Golden State standards, this season was downright bumpy.
The Warriors won only 58 regular-season games, by far their fewest in this four-year run of excellence. They went 7-10 in their final 17 games of the regular season. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala all got hurt. They needed to win a Game 7 on the road to reach the NBA Finals, and they could have easily lost two of the first three games of this series.
Yet here they are.
Golden State is on the cusp of another NBA championship, holding a 3-0 series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers going into Game 4 of the finals. The Warriors could be champions again as early as Friday night, and this crown – after experiencing plenty of turbulence this season – would most definitely be one to savor.
”Going into this season, I don’t think anybody could have guessed or predicted the ups and downs and the roller coaster we’ve been on,” Curry said Thursday as the Warriors prepped for the possible clincher. ”So, definitely a different year, just overall http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-golden-tate-iii-jersey , personally with injuries, as a team with dealing with injuries, dealing with the kind of expectations that have been placed on us from the outside and the noise around us as a team.”
They went 67-15 on the way to the NBA title in 2015, matched that record on the way to another title last season and went 73-9 – the best record in league history – in 2016 only to fall short in the finals against Cleveland. That series, one where the Warriors led 3-1, changed when they couldn’t finish the job while being presented with serious adversity.
This year, there’s been a toughness to go along with the finesse.
They overcame deficits of 17 and 15 points against Houston in the final two games of the Western Conference finals, the second of those on the Rockets‘ home floor. They overcame an 11-point deficit in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Cleveland, and rallied from 13 points down to beat the Cavaliers in Game 3 on Wednesday.
They needed 27 starting lineups in the regular season, and five so far in the playoffs. But they’re one win away from getting their fingerprints all over another Larry O’Brien Trophy.
”You can never count out a champion, no matter what’s going on in the course of their season,” Cleveland star LeBron James said, lauding the Warriors. ”It’s impossible to do that, because they’re built from a different cloth, and I know that firsthand. When you win a championship and you’re around guys for a long period of time, and you know what you’re capable of doing Billy Price Color Rush Jersey , all you need is to get healthy.
”If you can get healthy and guys are playing at the right level at the same time, then you can feel like you can beat anybody.”
They got healthy.
And they’re about to beat everybody.
They did it the hard way, without question. Houston finished seven games ahead of the Warriors in the regular season, earning the right to be the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. If the Rockets had Chris Paul for Game 6 or Game 7 of that series, if Paul’s hamstring hadn’t betrayed him at the worst possible time, then the Warriors could very well be on vacation right now.
”Every season is very different,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. ”Every journey is a new one each season. Yet the cumulative effect on multiple journeys adds up, and we have felt that this year. I think it’s been our most inconsistent season. It’s been our most difficult season. But our guys sense the finish line, and they turned it on right from the beginning of the playoffs defensively.”
The finish line is now within sight.
If the Warriors finish this off – no team in NBA history has blown a 3-0 series lead – then all the hiccups of the regular season will be forgotten. There will be a parade in the Bay Area before long, championship rings to hand out and another banner to unfurl on opening night next season, and more free agents likely will take a look at signing with Golden State in an effort to add to their own jewelry collections.
But if things get rocky next season, the Warriors will also have the experiences from this year to draw upon. In short, not looking their best at times this season might ultimately make them better.
”It’s been a crazy ride,” Curry said. ”So now we’ve just got to finish the job.”
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