Mitchell: 'You gotta knuckle up'

The Jaguars No. 2 in the NFL in rushing and the Steelers are No. 23 in run defense.

Any questions?

"You gotta knuckle up," free safety Mike Mitchell assessed in advance of the Jaguars' visit to Heinz Field on Sunday. "They're playing vintage, 1999-2000 'Madden,' two fullbacks, three tight ends, you know it's a run; what's up?

"We acknowledge that. We're going to have to see what's up on Sunday."

The Steelers were better against the run last Sunday in Baltimore than they had been on Sept. 24 in Chicago. They cut the rushing yards against down from 220 to 82. But the average yards per carry only dropped from 5.8 to 5.5.

And the Ravens reeled off runs of 23 and 50 yards against the Steelers, splash plays in the ground game Mitchell suspects won't have escaped the Jaguars' attention.

"They're for sure going to get off the bus running an outside-stretch based on what we've done the last two weeks," Mitchell predicted.

Rookie running back Leonard Fournette has 285 rushing yards and is averaging 3.5 yards per carry through four games. But the fourth-overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft has been leaned upon even against eight-man boxes while the Jaguars attempt to figure things out without big-play wide receiver Allen Robinson, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Sept. 12.

Fournette (6-foot, 228 pounds) has a long run of 17 yards this season, but he also has four touchdowns in his first four NFL games (three rushing, one receiving).

He's looked the part.

Running back Chris Ivory (118 yards, 3.9 per carry) and quarterback Blake Bortles (98 yards, 7.0 per attempt) have supplemented a running game Jacksonville hasn't been shy about relying upon.

"They have two very good running backs that can get on the edge and make cuts vertically, I expect them to run that," Mitchell said. "They're also going to come out, like we've said, in their two-running back formations and run power, because that's their personally. But if you don't think they're going to try to hit us on plays that we haven't played right; that's NFL football.

"It's a huge challenge for us. It's going to be a big game for the front seven. We have to stop the run."

Fournette might require more than just the front seven to contain.

Mitchell is committed to contributing whatever's necessary.

"I know what my job is," he said. "My job is to turn this guy around. I look forward to trying to do that on Sunday."

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