Having a ball on offense

Maybe one football is enough after all.

Having just one to pass around among a slew of play-making eligible receivers wasn't an issue in Sunday afternoon's 27-3 win in Jacksonville and it hasn't been a problem during the Steelers' 10-0 start.

The receiving corps has been fine with wherever and however the ball has been distributed since training camp, wide receiver Diontae Johnson maintained.

"We realized we have a special team and a really special defense," Johnson said after catching a career-high 12 passes for 111 yards in Jacksonville. "You can see it in Ben's eyes that he wants to play."

Just as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is inspiring Johnson and the receivers, the pass-catchers are energizing Roethlisberger.

Apparently, they're all having a ball.

"Absolutely," Roethlisberger emphasized. "They're a fun, young group. I enjoy working with them. I enjoy communicating with them at night through videos and texts and things like that. I joke that they keep me young but they really are a selfless group that really believes in each other.

"They're genuinely happy for each other and they just want to win football games. I'm blessed to have such a fun skill group."

SPREAD 'EM OUT, SPREAD IT AROUND: Maybe the wide receivers and tight ends are happy, in part, because they know the ball is bound to come to them eventually given how often the Steelers are throwing it.

"We talk about that all the time in practice, if we're in the right spot he's going to put the ball where it needs to be and we just need to make plays on it," Johnson said.

Johnson's 100-yard game was his second in a row and the second of his career.

Wide receiver Chase Claypool and tight end Eric Ebron caught touchdown passes from Roethlisberger.

Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster leads the team in receptions (58) and trails Johnson by 2 yards for the team lead in that department (537-535).

Claypool's receiving TD was his eighth of the season and 10th overall.

It came from an empty set that included wide receivers Johnson, Ray-Ray McCloud and Smith-Schuster and Ebron at tight end on second-and-7 from the Jacksonville 31-yard line.

The Steelers have been particularly combustible when operating out of such formations ever since their second-half comeback on Nov. 1 against the Ravens at Baltimore.

"We feel like we have a lot of looks," Roethlisberger said of the empty-set approach. "We have a lot of different ways that we can move guys around and put them in different spots.

"I have to give those guys a lot of credit because we put them in different spots and they just respond and do what they're supposed to do and they make plays. The kudos goes to the skill guys in that."

Added Johnson: "We're very confident because we've got guys who can make plays and whatnot all across the field. We're just a special group. We like to make each other better. I feel confident because we have a quarterback that knows what he's doing back there, and he's been back there for a long time, so we trust him to put us in the right positions and we're going to make plays for him."

MORE WHERE THAT CAME FROM: The defense collected as many interceptions (four) as it allowed third-down conversions in Jacksonville (the Jaguars went 4-for-13, 31 percent).

In the last two games (a 36-10 win over Cincinnati on Nov. 15 and Sunday's 24-point decision in Jacksonville) the Steelers have allowed one touchdown, two field goals and 530 total net yards (an average of 265 per game).

But free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick thinks the defense is still capable of getting better.

"There's definitely still more to work on," he said. "Those are two teams that we should've beat like that. We're a very talented team, and we should have won those games like that."

Fitzpatrick and strong safety Terrell Edmunds each had two interceptions against the Jaguars.

THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: The Steelers' 106 yards rushing against the Jaguars the total was 110 before relief quarterback Mason Rudolph began executing clock-killing kneel downs at the end of regulation snapped a streak of three consecutive games in which the Steelers had been held under 50 yards on the ground.

But head coach Mike Tomlin wasn't willing to declare the run-game issues he had acknowledged prior to the Jacksonville game resolved upon its completion.

"I'll let you guys keep talking about it," Tomlin told the media. "It was better today, and we will keep addressing it. We're not going to crack that nut with the first swing. It will take continual work and effort on our part to continue to work on our warts, and that is not our only wart.

"It's just the one that you guys choose to recognize."