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Steelers sneak by Jaguars for 17-13 victory

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Pittsburgh started fast, but couldn't put the Jaguars away in a game that began as a blowout and ended as a 17-13 squeaker and the Steelers' fourth win of the season. Rashard Mendenhall ran like a man possessed, racking up 146 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and the Steelers defense hassled rookie Blaine Gabbert to the tune of five sacks.

When a team comes out of the gate and scores on its first three possessions of the game, that’s a good thing. When it fails to score a single point after those three possessions – not so much.

Nonetheless, those three scores were all the Steelers needed to hold off a late comeback by the Jacksonville Jaguars for a 17-13 victory.

Just one week after a dominating performance in a victory against Tennessee, Pittsburgh came out firing against another AFC South club.

Rashard Mendenhall led a resurgent ground game early, with Ben Roethlisberger picking up some key plays through the air en route to the team’s first touchdown. Mendenhall, who watched the running game take off from the sidelines last week, took a run wide for an eight-yard score and an early 7-0 lead.

Brett Keisel’s third-down sack forced Jacksonville into a three-and-out, giving the ball back to Pittsburgh’s offense, and the league’s best big-play combo – Roethlisberger and receiver Mike Wallace - hooked up for 28-yard touchdown to put the Steelers up by fourteen.

A second-straight three-and-out by Pittsburgh’s defense and a 68-yard run by Mendenhall helped the Steelers sneak into the red zone on their third possession, which ended with a 21-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham.

The Jaguars would answer on the next drive, breaking on the scoreboard with a 46-yard kick by Josh Scobee. An attempt by Suisham from the same distance on the ensuing drive meant that the fourteen-point lead would stand.

The Steelers defense clamped down for the remainder of the first half, ensuring that Pittsburgh would enjoy that same lead at the half.

Jacksonville’s first drive of the second half left them dead in the water before the team was bailed out by a roughing the kicker penalty enforced on the Steelers’ Ryan Mundy. With new life, the Jaguars chipped their way down the field before rookie Blaine Gabbert hit receiver Jason Hill for an eighteen-yard touchdown to cap off the nine-minute drive.

Stingy defense and sloppy play by each team led to a series of three-and-outs for each team to start the fourth quarter. That trend ended when Jacksonville caught photo by Chuck LeClaireanother break in the special teams game.

Daniel Sepulveda shanked a punt that nearly found its way into the stands for a net of just 22 yards. The Jaguars turned that favorable field position into a 45-yard field goal that cut the Steelers’ lead to four.

Pittsburgh nearly managed to run out the clock after that score, but a late sack by the Jaguars gave their offense one more chance at a victory.

Jacksonville lost a chunk of time on another Keisel sack on their first play of the drive, and lost the game when Gabbert’s last-second end zone shot sailed long five plays later.

LG Doug Legursky left Sunday’s contest in the first half with a dislocated toe. NT Chris Hoke suffered a neck stinger and did not return to the contest. Safeties Ryan Clark (shoulder) and Troy Polamalu (concussion-like symptoms) were both injured late in the fourth quarter.

Through the Air
Big Ben was lights out early, but ran into a wall in the second half. After storming out to 181 yards and a TD in the first two quarters, Ben had just one completion and was sacked three times the rest of the way.

Mike Wallace led all players with 76 yards on two catches with one touchdown. Hines Ward’s three receptions for 46 yards allowed him to pass Michael Irvin for sole possession of 19th place in all-time receiving yards. Heath Miller caught a team-high four passes for 27 yards.

On the Ground
The performances of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer last week lit a fire under Rashard Mendenhall, who finally broke through this season with 146 yards and a TD on 23 carries. Redman took advantage of his now-limited opportunities with 22 yards on four carries.

Still no turnovers, but the defense did rack up five sacks of rookie QB Blaine Gabbert. LaMarr Woodley and Brett Keisel each picked up two sacks with James Farrior sweeping in for the fifth. Farrior also led the team with eleven total tackles, with Ryan Clark trailing at ten. Jacksonville was held to 76 yards through the air and 209 yards total.

Special Teams
Shaun Suisham hit a 21-yard field goal to put the team up 17-0, but missed a 46-yarder the next time out. He’s now 7-of-11 for the season. Daniel Sepulveda averaged 42.7 yards on six punts, an average which was brought down by a 22-yard shank in the fourth quarter.

Ryan Mundy’s roughing the kicker call on a punt attempt by Jacksonville extended a drive that eventually turned into seven points. Antonio Brown was relatively quiet in the return game.

Game Ball
Mendenhall ran like a star in a game where he absolutely needed to shine. His 146-yard outburst should keep the Redman/Dwyer crowd at bay for the next few weeks.

Up Next
Pittsburgh will head west to face Pittsburgh-West, the Arizona Cardinals (1-4), who stood idle on a bye in week six. Kickoff will be at 4:05 PM with the game broadcast carried by CBS.

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