Give the crowd an assist on Steelers on goal-line stand
Pittsburgh Steelers' Jerome Bettis crosses the goal line on his 17-yard reception from Kordell Stewart on tackling attemps from Jacksonville's Deon Figures (27) and Tony Brackens (90). (Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review photo)By Rich Emert
Steelers fans who were at soggy Three Rivers Stadium Sunday night, give yourselves a hand. Pull a cold one out of the refrigerator and pop the top. Why? Because the 57,011 on hand for the Steelers-Jacksonville Jaguars AFC Central Division clash played a major role in the Steelers' 23-17 overtime victory.
The noise they created when the Jaguars faced a fourth-and-1 at the Steelers' 2-yard line with 6:14 left in the third quarter may have been the thing that stopped Jacksonville. The Steelers had scored seconds earlier to trim the Jaguars' lead to 10-7. But Jacksonville got a 36-yard kickoff return from Willie Jackson and the Steelers were penalized 15 yards for grabbing the face mask. That put the ball on the Steelers' 40 and three plays later the Jaguars were third-and-1 and looking to add to their point total.
On third down, Jacksonville running back James Stewart was stopped by linebackers Levon Kirkland and Earl Holmes for no gain. Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin decided to go for the touchdown instead of trying a field goal on fourth down. "We came in to be aggressive," Coughlin said. "On the road, trying to be the aggressor, I'd go for it again. I take full responsibility for that. It was my call. On third down, we just didn't get enough push. The second time, it was a bust."
The second time was the fourth-down play on which Stewart, who finished with just 39 yards on 16 carries, was stopped for no gain when linebacker Greg Lloyd dashed in from the right side. But here is what happened on the play and how the fans, and the noise they created, played a part:
Jacksonville quarterback Mark Brunell called a running play to the right side, then called for a timeout. "Ninety-nine percent of the time when you call a play and then call a timeout you come back with the same play," said Stewart. "When he (Brunell) came back he called, `32,' but it was so noisy out there that it was hard to hear and `32' sounded like `33' to me. That was the play that was called before the time out, `33.' It was just a communications mistake."
The running play was designed to go over the right side behind guard Rich Tylski and Leon Searcy. Instead, Stewart took the handoff and went left. When he saw everything clogged, he cut back to the right but by then Lloyd had him. "It was a mental error, not a physical one. Someone went the wrong way or something," said Jacksonville tackle Tom Boselli. "What hurts is that we had it blocked and it should have been a walk in because there's a hole there and all we have to do is run right."
"I don't know what happened behind me, but we had it blocked," said Searcy. "That was the momentum swing they needed."
The Steelers then put together a 15-play, 98-yard touchdown drive to take the lead. Jacksonville also squandered scoring opportunities in the first half. The Jaguars intercepted Kordell Stewart's first pass of the game and returned the ball to the Steelers' 38. But three plays lost 4 yards and the Jaguars had to punt.
Later in the first quarter, Jacksonville drove to the Steelers' 36, but Brunell misfired on consecutive passes. Again, the Jaguars had to punt. They should have had more than a 10-0 lead at the half. "We had momentum going our way and we blew it," Searcy said. "We picked up their blitzes in the first half and I think we had them doubting themselves. But we should have been up by more than 10. When you play a good team like the Steelers on the road and you get the chance you've got to bury them. We didn't."
How they scoredSECOND QUARTER
Jaguars - Willie Jackson, 8-yard reception from Mark Brunell (Mike Hollis kick), 14:08. Drive, 7 plays, 43 yards, 2:16. Big plays, Josh Miller, 25-yard punt to Steelers 43 and Jimmy Smith, 15-yard reception from Brunell. Jaguars 7, Steelers 0.
Jaguars - Hollis, 20-yard field goal, 6:24. Drive, 10 plays, 81 yards, 5:09. Big plays, Pete Mitchell, 20-yard, and Jackson, 45-yard receptions from Brunell. Jaguars 10, Steelers 0.
Steelers - Courtney Hawkins, 28-yard reception from Kordell Stewart (Norm Johnson kick), 8:09. Drive, 7 plays, 80 yards, 4:00. Big plays, Hawkins, 18-yard, and Yancey Thigpen, 19-yard receptions from Stewart. Jaguars 10, Steelers 7.
Steelers - Stewart, 1-yard run (Johnson kick), 12:21. Drive, 15 plays, 98 yards, 8:48. Big plays, Thigpen, 13-yard reception from Stewart and 16-yard reception from Stewart on third-and-nine, and Jerome Bettis, 19-yard run. Steelers 14, Jaguars 10.
Jaguars - Pete Mitchell, 3-yard reception from Brunell (Hollis kick), 8:13. Drive, 4 plays, 16 yards, 0:53. Big play, Joel Smeenge recovery of Bettis fumble on 16. Jaguars 17, Steelers 14.
Steelers - Johnson, 19-yard field goal, 2:21. Drive, 12 plays, 71 yards, 5:52. Big play, Stewart, 2-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the 50 and Thigpen, 41-yard reception from Stewart. Jaguars 17, Steelers 17.
Steelers - Bettis, 17-yard reception from Stewart, 9:13. Drive, 9 plays, 77 yards, 5:47. Big plays, Jaguars cornerback Deon Figures, 14-yard pass interference penalty and Thigpen, 17-yard reception from Stewart. Steelers 23, Jaguars 17.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Steelers wide receiver Yancey Thigpen gets a career high 11 catches for 196 yards, including six catches that turned into first downs.
The Steelers amass 439 yards, including 320 in the second half.
Linebacker Greg Lloyd stops Jaguars running back James Stewart for no gain on a fourth-and-1 play from the 2 in the third quarter. The play keeps the Jaguars lead at 10-7 and sets up a 98-yard scoring drive that gave the Steelers the lead for the first time.
Steelers - 9 of 17, 53 percent.
Jaguars - 4 of 14, 29 percent.
Steelers - Two touchdowns and a field goal in three trips.
Jaguars - Two touchdowns, a field goal and failure on downs in four trips.