By Teresa Varley
A battered and bruised Steelers team went to Jacksonville and showed plenty of heart as they fought to the finish for a 26-21 victory over the Jaguars.
The win improves the Steelers record to 4-1 and has them in first place in the AFC North as they head into their bye week.
Ben Roethlisberger, who didn't practice during the week with a sore shoulder, had a stellar performance, completing 26 of 41 for 309 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
"We knew coming in it was going to be a heavy weight fight and it was," said Roethlisberger. "I am really proud of the way the guys played all night."
Mewelde Moore, filling in at an injury-plagued running back position, answered the call with 17 carries for 99 yards and added three receptions for 17 yards.
The defense continued to dominate shutting down the Jaguars ground game which was able to only amass 38 yards rushing.
Despite a depleted backfield the Steelers came out running to start the game and Moore responded with a 19-yard carry. Roethlisberger then went to the air, hitting Hines Ward for a 13-yard gain and the offense looked to be on target. But things took a quick turn. Roethlisberger was sacked by John Henderson for an eight-yard loss. On the next play Roethlisberger looked for Santonio Holmes but the pass was intercepted by Rashean Mathis who returned it 72 yards for a touchdown to put the Jaguars up 7-0.
The Steelers sputtered a bit to start the next drive but turned it around quickly. On third-and-10 Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes for a 16-yard gain. Moore rattled off an eight-yard run and Najeh Davenport added three yards on his first carry to convert a third-and-one. Moore pulled in a short pass from Roethlisberger and turned it into a 13-yard gain. Gary Russell's first NFL carry netted four yards and it was back to the air as Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller for a first-down at the Jacksonville three-yard line. Roethlisberger capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown pass to Miller to tie the game at 7-7.
David Garrard and the Jaguars offense finally got on the field and converted two key third downs, a 15-yard reception by Maurice Jones-Drew and an 18-yard reception by Mike Walker to the Steelers 40-yard line. Garrard went for broke on the next play, but threw incomplete to Jones-Drew in the end zone. Ike Taylor was called for pass interference on the play, a 39-yard penalty that gave the Jaguars the ball at the one-yard line. Jones-Drew then went up the middle for a touchdown to take back the lead, 14-7.
The back-and-forth action continued on the Steelers next drive. Two false start calls put the offense in a hole, but they got back in gear when Ward pulled in a 14-yard reception for a first down. Nate Washington caught a six-yard pass on the short right and Ward came through with an eight-yard reception. Moore added an 11-yard run and Roethlisberger found Ward over the middle for 14-yards. On first down Moore went up the middle for five yards and then added a two-yard gain. Roethlisberger looked for Moore near the goal line, but it was incomplete. Jeff Reed came on and continued to be a steady force, hitting on a 38-yard field goal to cut the lead to 14-10.
It was a quick three-and-out for the Jaguars on their next drive, forcing the first punt of the game.
It was back to work for the offense and they got the job done. Holmes caught a slant pass from Roethlisberger and broke free for a 19-yard gain and Washington added a 14-yard reception. Roethlisberger went deep and hit a wide-open Washington around the 15-yard line, who then headed into the end zone untouched for a 48-yard touchdown to give the Steelers their first lead of the game at 17-14.
The defense continued to swarm and didn't allow the Jaguars anything on their next drive, forcing another punt.
A foolish penalty by the Jaguars gave the Steelers second life on their ensuing drive. Roethlisberger's deep pass on third down to Washington was incomplete, but Brian Williams was called for taunting to keep the drive alive. Unfortunately they weren't able to take advantage of the mistake and punted for the first time in the game.
The Jaguars tried to run the ball on the Steelers on their next drive, but didn't go far. Fred Taylor had a six-yard carry up the middle and followed it with a two-yard gain. On third-and-two Jones-Drew was stopped short of the first down.
Russell got his turn in the backfield and went around left end for a 16-yard gain. Miller added receptions of 17 and 15-yards, much to the delight of a crowd filled with Terrible Towel waving fans. Roethlisberger found Holmes at the five-yard line for a 19-yard gain to five the Steelers first-and-goal with just over a minute in the half. The Steelers weren't able to get it in the end zone, but Reed extended the lead with his 23-yard field goal, sending the Steelers into the half up 20-14.
The Jaguars, who were held to just 49 yards in the first half, got it going a bit in the second half. Garrard had a six-yard completion to Taylor, a 16-yarder to Walker and a 10-yard toss to Jones-Drew. But the defense stepped up to the challenge and Woodley shut down the drive when he sacked Garrard for a seven-yard loss.
A three-and-out by the Steelers offense put the ball back in the Jaguars hands. Garrard completed a 14-yard pass to Walker and then took it himself for an eight-yard gain, coming up a yard shy of the first down. Jones-Drew tried to get the yard, but was stopped for no gain. The Jaguars went for it on fourth-and-one and converted when Garrard hit Greg Jones for 15 yards. The Jaguars were unable to keep it going and faced with fourth-and-seven went for it again, this time coming up short when Garrard's pass to Jones was batted down by James Harrison.
The Steelers took over at their own 34-yard line but were unable to make anything happen, with their drive coming to a fast end after Roethlisberger was sacked.
The Jaguars wasted no time taking advantage of getting the ball back so fast. Garrard hit Walker for nine yards and then went back to him for a 32-yard completion. Deshea Townsend tipped a Garrard pass intender for Jones for the incompletion, but Ryan Clark was called for a personal foul after he hit Jones on the incompletion, giving them a first down at the 24-yard line. Garrard fired a bullet to Marcedes Lewis for a 24-yard touchdown to give the Jaguars the lead again, 21-20.
Roethlisberger was faced with pressure on the ensuing drive when Paul Spicer got by Trai Essex, who came into the game for an injured Marvel Smith, for an eight-yard sack. The pressure continued and on third down Roethlisberger was forced to scramble and was brought down by a slew of Jaguars defenders.
A fired up Steelers defense was able to hold the Jaguars and give the offense another shot at. Ward pulled in a 16-yard reception, Moore went up the middle for four yards and Miller had a three-yard catch. On third down Washington had a nice 12-yard reception, but was penalized 15 yards for taunting. Moore broke free for 27 yards for a first down at the Jacksonville 23-yard line. On third down Roethlisberger avoided the sack and found Ward for an 18-yard completion to the Jacksonville 13-yard line. Roethlisberger then hit Ward on the fade in the corner of the end zone, putting them up 26-20 after a failed two-point conversion.
The Steelers defense held off a late comeback attempt by the Jaguars, with Aaron Smith batting down Garrard's final pass to secure the win.