Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh (+2.5)
Power rankings: Jax 9, Pitt 15
Keys to the game, when Jacksonville has the ball:
The Jaguars offense is 13th in DVOA and 18th in EPA/play. Trevor Lawrence has continued to play well - earning a 81.8 PFF grade while completing 67.4% of his passes and gaining 6.9 yards per attempt. Lawrence has also been an effective runner - his 23 scrambles are second most to Lamar Jackson, and he's gaining 5.3 yards per attempt on the ground. Lawrence's one issue is around ball security, his 7 fumbles are 2nd most in the league this year. Lawrence has a strong group of receivers (Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Evan Engram) and an effective back in Travis Etienne, although the offensive line is mediocre at best. That said, it isn't easy to get to Lawrence - he avoids pressure with quick throws. Lawrence's average time to throw of 2.18 seconds is 6th fastest in the league, and he's under pressure just 29.3% of the time, making him the 4th least pressured quarterback in football.
The Steelers defense (8th in DVOA and EPA/play) is anchored by their pass rush, which should give them an edge in the trenches. Most readers are familiar with TJ Watt (29 pressures), but DE Alex Highsmith - a 2020 3rd rounder out of Charlotte - has elevated his game to elite levels. Highsmith's 26 pressures are 19th most in the league while his 15.3% pass-rush win rate ranks 23rd best. In total, the Steelers generate pressure 34.8% of the time, 6th most in the league, despite modest blitz rates (29.6%, 12th most). The weakness for the Steelers defense comes in the secondary. If rookie CB Joey Porter Jr (ankle, questionable) cannot go, the Steelers will start 3 corners who all have a PFF grade below 60. Pittsburgh needs to win in the trenches, because they'll likely have issues covering the Jags receivers.
When the Steelers have the ball:
The Steelers offense is 26th in DVOA and 28th in EPA/play. Kenny Pickett isn't playing well, the offensive line has far too many holes, and the run game is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. The offense did get a boost when WR Diontae Johnson returned from injury last week, which gives them a solid 1-2 punch with George Pickens. However, they need better play from the offensive line and quarterback to flourish.
This will be a difficult test for the Steelers, as the Jags ranks 4th in defensive DVOA and 7th in EPA/play. The weakness of the Jaguars defense is in the pass rush (or lack thereof) - they're generating pressure at just a 25.7% clip, ranking 29th in the league. Outside of Josh Allen, who has an impressive 33 pressures this season, nobody is consistency winning. They are, however, strong at every other position. Foyesade Oluokun and Devin Lloyd is one of the better linebacker duos in football. Darious Williams has been a lock down corner, allowing just a 66.5 passer rating into his coverage without committing a single penalty, he's also intercepted 3 passes and broken up 8. S Andre Cisco, a 2021 3rd rounder, is having his best year, playing well in both the pass and run game.