Mike Tomlin will not entertain the notion that Sunday's showdown in Jacksonville is a trap game for the Steelers, the NFL's last unbeaten team. While some may already be looking ahead to Pittsburgh's Thanksgiving Day game with Baltimore, Tomlin's team is dialed in on the Jaguars, a 1-8 outfit that has not one a game since defeating the Colts back in Week 1. The Jaguars have played much better over the past two weeks, however, losing a two-point game to the Texans before falling to the Packers on the road last Sunday, 24-20.
"We understand what we're going into in Jacksonville," Tomlin said earlier this week. "That's a group that's trying to kick our butt. A professional group. A capable group. And we're preparing with that understanding."
Tomlin's praise of the Jaguars did not affect the oddsmakers' decision to make his team a 10-point favorite for Sunday's game, according to William Hill Sportsbook. Six of our eight CBS Sports NFL experts picked Pittsburgh to cover the spread, while each of our experts have picked the Steelers to win while improving to 10-0.
Before we breakdown Sunday's game, here's how to follow the action in real time.
How to watch
When the Steelers have the ball
For a team that has yet to lose a game, there's been a lot of chatter in Pittsburgh this week about the Steelers' struggles in the running game. Despite having former Pro Bowl running back James Conner at their disposal, the Steelers have rushed for less than 50 yards as a team for three straight weeks. Expect Pittsburgh to try to establish its running game early against Jacksonville's 24th ranked run defense.
While they will look to establish the run, that doesn't mean the Steelers will hit the pause button on a passing game that has been one of the NFL's best this season. Ben Roethlisberger is the reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 333 yards and four touchdowns in last Sunday's 36-10 win over the Bengals. Pittsburgh's receiving corps has been led by JuJu Smith-Schuster (54 catches, 516 yards, five touchdowns), rookie Chase Claypool (35 catches, 500 yards, seven touchdowns), Diontae Johnson (37 receptions, 426 yards, four touchdowns) and tight end Eric Ebron (31 catches, 323 yards, three touchdowns).
The Steelers are all too familiar with Jaguars linebacker Joe Schobert, who recorded two interceptions against Pittsburgh as a member of the Browns last season. The Jaguars' defense also includes Pro Bowl defensive end Josh Allen, veteran linebacker Myles Jack, and rookies K'Lavon Chaisson and DaVon Hamilton. While this unit has potential, the Jaguars' lack of experience on defense has shown itself far too often this season. They have tallied just nine sacks through nine games, a bad omen heading into Sunday's game. One area where the Jaguars' defense has done well is on third down, as they are currently 10th in the league in red down efficiency.
When the Jaguars have the ball
Tomlin spoke at length about the respect he has for Jaguars rookie running back James Robinson, who is coming off of a 109-yard effort in the Jaguars' 24-20 loss to the Packers last Sunday. Robinson, who went undrafted following a stellar college career at Illinois State, is the NFL's fifth-leading rusher through nine games.
"I cannot say enough about him and the respect I have for what he has done," Tomlin said of Robinson, via Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider. "I read something this morning that he has run for more yards than any undrafted rookie in the history of our game to this point in his rookie season. That says it all."
The Jaguars' offense will again be led by rookie quarterback Jake Luton, a sixth-round pick who threw for 304 yards in his first career start. He was less successful against the Packers last Sunday, however, throwing for just 169 yards while completing just over 50% of his passes. Not surprisingly, Luton's favorite target has been receiver DJ Chark, who recorded a season-high 146 receiving yards against the Texans in Week 9. Likely drawing the assignment of covering Chark will be Pittsburgh cornerback Joe Haden, a three-time Pro Bowler who disrupted several of Joe Burrow's pass attempts last Sunday. If Chark draws too much attention from Pittsburgh's defense, Luton will likely turn to Keelan Cole, who caught Luton's second career touchdown pass against the Packers. Cole also scored on a 91-yard punt return.
Lutton, who was sacked five times during his first two starts, will face a Steelers defense that currently leads the NFL in sacks and forced turnovers. Pittsburgh's defense, led by defensive linemen Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree, and defensive backs Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick, did not allow a single third down conversion during last week's win over Cincinnati.
This game appears similar to the one the Steelers took part in two weeks ago. A double-digit road favorite, Pittsburgh started slow before rallying to defeat a Cowboys team that was playing without starting quarterback Dak Prescott. As was the case then, expect the Steelers to win an ugly game against a Jacksonville team that has played significantly better football over the past two weeks despite the absence of quarterback Gardner Minshew. Specifically, look for Pittsburgh's defense to come up with several turnovers that will shift the game in the Steelers' favor.
Score: Steelers 24, Jaguars 13