Nov 18, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) is tackled by Jacksonville Jaguars safety Barry Church (42) during the third quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

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Rookie QB leads one-win Jags vs. undefeated Steelers

It would be quite the attention-getter for the Jaguars if they could hand the Pittsburgh Steelers their first loss Sunday in Jacksonville.

Perhaps Pittsburgh (9-0) might peek ahead to an AFC North showdown against Baltimore on Thanksgiving. Or perhaps the Steelers are simply due for a loss.

And perhaps the Jaguars (1-8) can build on a stretch in which they lost their past two games by a combined six points, including a 24-20 game last week at Green Bay.

Or perhaps not.

“They’ll come down and be ready to go,” Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone said. “They’ve got a lot at stake. They’re 9-0. They watched us play last week. They’ll be ready to go. You’re not going to catch them (letting up) or anything like that.”

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger agreed. And then some.

“The goal isn’t to go undefeated; the goal is to win a Super Bowl,” Roethlisberger said. “We are just going one week at a time. We are not worried about anything other than this week. … I am hungry to come out and get this game.”

Of course, continuing to win and finding a road to the Super Bowl would seem to be overlapping paths. And running into a “hungry” Roethlisberger doesn’t exactly bode well for any opponent.

Roethlisberger has arguably been Pittsburgh’s MVP, and there are some corners where he has been mentioned as a possible league MVP – for which the veteran and two-time Super Bowl champ has never received a single vote.

He has passed for 2,267 yards and 22 touchdowns, with four interceptions.

Marrone said Roethlisberger is playing at “a really high level right now. … He’s having a great year.”

He’s doing that despite a sometimes-sputtering run game.

While receiver Juju Smith-Schuster (9.6 yards a catch, five touchdowns) has been the closest thing the Steelers have to a go-to passing target, it’s been more about a cast that includes receivers Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and James Washington, and tight end Eric Ebron.

Jacksonville will give rookie quarterback Jake Luton his third straight start after those two narrow losses. He has gone 44 of 73 for 473 passing yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Rookie quarterbacks have been good fodder for the Steelers, who are 25-4 against them since 2004, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Most recently, Pittsburgh frustrated Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow last week in a 36-10 win.

Luton will be facing a Steelers’ defense that leads the NFL with 36 sacks and is tied for first with 17 takeaways. Pittsburgh also stands a good chance of getting back cornerback Mike Hilton (shoulder), who missed the past four games but was a full participant in practice Wednesday.

“We’ll just have to be ready, be prepared and deal with whatever looks they give us,” Luton said. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Marrone is counting on the Jaguars starting strong.

“If you get yourself into a game where you get behind, then they’re going to eat you up,” he said. “You’re talking about guys who can rush the passer both inside and outside, guys who have been hitting quarterbacks, sacking quarterbacks … all that stuff. It can get ugly fast.”

In addition to Hilton, Steelers running back Anthony McFarland (illness) and defensive end Isaiah Buggs (ankle) were full participants at Wednesday’s practice after missing the Cincinnati game.

For Jacksonville, receiver Laviska Shenault (hamstring), who missed the Packers game, did not practice Wednesday. Neither did tight end James O’Shaughnessy (knee).

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
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