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Steelers never have easy time beating Jaguars

To get to Super Bowl LII, the Steelers most likely will have to beat Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium, something they’ve never done.

Before that, however, the Steelers will have to do something else they’ve never done: beat Blake Bortles in Pittsburgh.

OK, so it wasn’t really Bortles who beat the Steelers in their 30-9 loss to the Jaguars this season. If any quarterback beat the Steelers in that Week 5 game, it was Ben Roethlisberger by throwing a career-high five interceptions.

Assuming the Patriots handle the Cinderella Titans Saturday night, this won’t be the first time the Steelers have hosted the Jaguars in a playoff game with the Patriots awaiting the winner. Ten years ago, the Jaguars beat the Steelers in a wild-card game before succumbing to the unbeaten Patriots the following week.

While the 2017 Steelers have a lot of things going for them that the 2007 Steelers didn’t, the only previous playoff meeting between these teams typifies how much the Steelers have struggled historically against the Jaguars.

Jacksonville, which entered the league in 1995 and until 2001 was a divisional rival of the Steelers in the old AFC Central, is one of just three AFC franchises that has an all-time winning record (12-11) against the Steelers. The other two are the Broncos (14-8-1) and Raiders (12-10). The Steelers haven’t beaten the Jaguars by double digits since 2001, and they haven’t beaten a Jaguars team that had a winning record since they won 17-16 at Jacksonville in 2004, Roethlisberger’s rookie season.

Exactly one year after Bill Cowher stepped down as Steelers coach, Mike Tomlin coached his first playoff game. Just like this year, the Jaguars had beaten the Steelers at Heinz Field in the regular season. Fred Taylor scored the deciding touchdown in that 29-22 victory in Week 15. Taylor ran for 234 yards in a 34-24 win at Pittsburgh seven years earlier. No other player has run for that many yards in a game against the Steelers.

Another nemesis played a role in the Jaguars’ 2007 playoff win. Unlike this season, pick-sixes didn’t afflict the Steelers against the Jaguars in the regular season but rather in the playoffs. Rashean Mathis, who took three interceptions to the house against the Steelers in his career, picked off a Roethlisberger pass and returned it 63 yards to give the Jaguars a 14-7 lead, an advantage that eventually grew to 28-10 late in the third quarter.

The Steelers fought back and took a 29-28 lead on a 1-yard run by Najeh Davenport.

If you’re asking just who in the hell is Najeh Davenport, he was the journeyman pressed into starting duty when Willie Parker broke his leg in Week 16. As long as Le’Veon Bell stays healthy, it’s safe to assume the 2017 Steelers are better off at running back in the postseason than the 2007 squad.

One eerie parallel on the Jaguars’ side, however, is mobility at quarterback. David Garrard was no Bortles in that regard, but on fourth-and-2 from the Steelers’ 43 with 1:56 left and the Steelers clinging to that 29-28 lead, Garrard scrambled for 32 yards to set up the game-winning field goal by Josh Scobee.

When it comes to painful playoff exits in Steelers history, that 2007 loss to the Jaguars is right up there with the Tim Tebow Game in 2011, Fitzgerald Toussaint‘s fumble in 2015 and Joe Nedney boasting his acting chops when a roughing-the-kicker penalty allowed him a second attempt at a game-winning field goal in overtime in 2002 at Tennessee.

Eight years after Scobee ended the Steelers’ 2007 season, he was a Steeler and missed two field goals in an overtime loss to the Ravens. That set the Steelers on a search that led to Chris Boswell.

So in a Rube Goldberg kind of way, Scobee has earned some amnesty for breaking the Steelers’ hearts in 2007. It wouldn’t be surprising if Sunday’s game came down to Boswell’s leg considering the way the Steelers’ 2017 season has gone as well as the difficulties they’ve had against the Jaguars.

Follow Mike @Steel_Tweets.

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