Defense can't hold lead in 23-21 loss



The Pittsburgh Steelers traveled to Jacksonville, FL to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1 of the 2015 preseason.

Steelers' record: 0-2 **One year ago: 0-1 Preseason series record: Jaguars lead, 1-0

It was to be preseason game No. 2, and the general impression during the run-up was there was plenty of room for improvement based on what had happened five days ago in preseason game No. 1.

"I want to see guys take a significant step," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "The guys have been in a stadium, and wherever they were a week ago I want to see them take a significant step forward. I expect us collectively to do some of the things we talked about last week, that quite frankly we failed at doing. I want an elimination of pre-snap penalties. We had delay of game penalties on offense. We also had a false start by the punt team. We had a lining up in the neutral zone on defense. You make yourself an easy team to beat when you do things like that, and I'm not interested in being that type of team."

The game was to serve as the 2015 preseason debut for Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Le'Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, Cortez Allen, Jarvis Jones, Shamarko Thomas, and James Harrison.

Coming into the game, the plan was to play Roethlisberger between 10-12 plays, but after he directed the first-team offense on a six-play 80-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a two-point conversion pass to Markus Wheaton, Coach Mike Tomlin decided he had seen enough. Roethlisberger exchanged his helmet for a baseball cap and was done for the night.


To start the game, the Steelers offensive line was as expected – from left to right, Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Marcus Gilbert. After the first series, which ended in a touchdown and an 8-0 Steelers lead, Pouncey was replaced by Cody Wallace with the rest of the unit staying intact. When it came time for the second group, it was made up of, from left to right, Alejandro Villanueva, Chris Hubbard, Wallace, B.J. Finney, and Mitchell Van Dyk.

It was the fourth quarter, and the Steelers had just taken a 21-17 lead on a touchdown pass from Landry Jones to C.J. Goodwin. When the team needed a defensive stop, what it got instead was a slew of penalties.

After the ensuing kickoff, the Jaguars began their offensive possession at their own 8-yard line, and before it ended with what turned out to be the deciding 1-yard touchdown by QB Stephen Morris, the Steelers defense had helped out with four critical penalties.

Jordan Zumwalt was flagged for roughing the passer; Gerod Holliman was hit with a personal foul for hitting a receiver above the shoulders; and then Jordan Sullen was flagged for defensive holding and then pass interference on back-to-back snaps.

Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams combined for 46 yards on eight carries (5.8 average) in limited playing time, but once they were removed the Steelers running attack disappeared. The rest of the game, the Steelers rushed for 29 yards on 12 attempts (2.4 average).

The Steelers were not penalized in the first half, but they were flagged eight times for 73 yards in the second half, with seven for 68 yards coming in the fourth quarter.

Two days before the game, Tomlin ruled out Robert Golden, Daniel McCullers, Ross Ventrone, Vince Williams, Bruce Gradkowski, Mike Adams, and Senquez Golson. Gradkowski, Adams, and Golson remain on the physically unable to perform list. Lawrence Timmons was in uniform, but he did not play.

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