Jaguars (11-6) at Steelers (13-3), at Heinz field
When: 1:05 p.m.
TV: Ch. 2
LINE: Steelers by 7
Antonio Brown led the NFL in receiving with 1,533 yards despite missing the final two games of the year.
The Steelers welcome Blake Bortles and the Jaguars to frigid Pittsburgh for the first divisional round game of the day. Forecasts predict temperatures to hover in the mid-to-high teens for the duration of the contest.
Here are three things to watch in Jacksonville’s first divisional round appearance since 2007.
ANTONIO BROWN’S RETURN?
The Steelers’ Super Bowl chances seemed to take a major hit in Week 15 when star wide receiver Antonio Brown went down with a calf injury during a primetime loss to the Patriots. It originally appeared to be serious, and many had doubts about whether Brown would play again this season. After three weeks off, though, Brown returned to practice Wednesday and participated fully on that day and Thursday. He then left Friday’s practice early because of an illness. Still, head coach Mike Tomlin was optimistic about Brown’s prospects of playing Sunday. “I don’t have a lot of reservations about him from a physical health standpoint,” he said. A source told Pro Football Talk that Brown will be a game-time decision. Brown led the NFL in receiving with 1,533 yards despite missing the final two games of the year.
(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
WILL THE REAL BLAKE BORTLES PLEASE STAND UP?
The narrative surrounding the Jaguars’ playoff run is widely accepted at this point: The team is winning behind its defense, and in spite of its quarterback Blake Bortles. “It will probably never stop,” Bortles said this week of the never-ending criticism. “There’s people that think LeBron James sucks, so if that happens, I’m sure there’ll be a lot of people that always think I suck.” Bortles did little with his arm to prove anyone wrong in the Jags’ 10-3 wild card win over the Bills last weekend. He completed 12 of 23 passes for 87 and a touchdown. He rushed for one more yard than he threw for on 10 carries. That Bortles was good enough to beat Buffalo. But that won’t be good enough to top Pittsburgh. He must be more productive in the passing game and give his AFC-best defense more breathing room.
The Jaguars showed they weren’t the team of years past when they went into Pittsburgh in Week 5 and handed a butt-whooping to the Steelers, 30-9. Rookie Leonard Fournette ran all over the Pittsburgh defense for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. The Jags’ now-vaunted defense had a coming-out party with two game-changing pick-sixes in the third quarter. They were two of five interceptions Ben Roethlisberger threw in the game. The Steelers’ future Hall of Fame quarterback will certainly be looking forward to another opportunity to face the Jags defense and wash the taste of that dreadful performance out of his mouth.
Steelers: WR Antonio Brown (calf/illness) is QUESTIONABLE.
Jaguars: LB Blair Brown (ankle) and WR Jaydon Mickens (hamstring) are QUESTIONABLE.
Source: Ny Daily News