Jaguars intercept Roethlisberger 5 times to rout Steelers
PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger turned in his worst home performance in more than 11 years as the Jacksonville Jaguars intercepted five passes in a 30-9 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday.
For an offense that set a goal of scoring 30 points per game, and is averaging only 20, head coach Mike Tomlin is concerned.
“I’m concerned when we lose. I’m concerned when we don’t take care of the ball,” said Tomlin. “We didn’t do that today.”
The Jaguars returned two of Roethlisberger’s interceptions for touchdowns on back-to-back Steelers possessions in the third quarter.
The first, returned by linebacker Telvin Smith for 28 yards, gave the Jaguars a 13-9 lead. The second was scored by safety Barry Church on a 51-yard return.
The Steelers’ offense couldn’t recover as Roethlisberger finished with a passer rating of 37.8, his worst at Heinz Field since a 30.7 rating against the Cincinnati Bengals early in the 2006 season.
“That’s the way the ball bounces sometimes,” said Roethlisberger. “You play this game long enough you’re going to get those games.”
Roethlisberger took the blame in the locker room — repeatedly saying “I need to play better” — and reviewed what he could remember of the interceptions this way:
“The first pick, got a little pressure and had to throw it a little early. The guy made a great play,” he said. “Second pick, ball got tipped and ended up hitting a linebacker in the chest. Third one, tipped again, and the fourth one a guy hit my arm. That’s the way they go sometimes.”
The Heinz Field crowd booed several times as the Steelers and Jaguars both came out of the game with 3-2 records.
The Steelers opened with a Roethlisberger bomb to Antonio Brown, who beat Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey for a 49-yard gain. The Steelers took a 3-0 lead on Chris Boswell’s 29-yard field goal.
Ramsey made up for it by stealing a Roethlisberger pass out of the hands of tight end Vance McDonald for an interception at the Pittsburgh 47. It led to a Leonard Fournette 2-yard touchdown run that gave the Jaguars a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier’s interception late in the first half set up a 34-yard Boswell field goal to bring the Steelers to within 7-6 at halftime.
The Steelers took a 9-7 lead with another Boswell field goal to start the third quarter, but the interception-fest was about to begin.
Smith’s 28-yard interception return with 6:38 remaining in the third quarter was aided by defensive tackle Abry Jones’ tip at the line. Jason Myers missed the extra point and the Jaguars led 13-9.
The Jaguars did it again on the next series when Roethlisberger challenged Ramsey on third-and-17. Ramsey broke up the pass to Brown, and Church — who grew up in the Pittsburgh area — returned the deflection 51 yards for a 20-9 lead with 3:59 left in the third quarter.
“This is my hometown, and getting to play against the Steelers, that’s unbelievable,” said Church, a Penn Hills High graduate. “Then to get the pick-six, it’s a great feeling.”
The Jaguars ran 8:07 off the clock before Myers kicked a 47-yard field goal for a 23-9 lead with 6:43 remaining.
Roethlisberger was then intercepted by safety Tashaun Gipson to seal the win with 5:41 remaining. Gipson added another interception with 3:16 left.
The five interceptions are a career high for Roethlisberger, who threw four interceptions in a 2008 home loss to the New York Giants and also in a 2006 loss at Oakland. It’s the most by any Steelers quarterback since Mark Malone threw five in 1987.
“He’s our general,” said Brown. “We rally around him good and bad. Obviously, we know there’s going to be more good.
“It wasn’t all his fault today. I left a couple balls out there. I thought I could have jumped and got that last one. Everyone feels that way. We’ll all get better. It’s a team game. He didn’t go out there by himself.”
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles passed for only 95 yards, but Fournette finished with 181 yards on 28 carries after breaking free for a 90-yard touchdown run with 1:47 left.
“We know when we play like we are capable of playing, we will be hard to beat,” said Ramsey. “There is a confidence in this locker room, which is nice but we have to continue to build off it.”
NOTES: The Jaguars took a 12-11 series lead in regular-season games against Pittsburgh. ... Jaguars DE Calais Campbell had a half-sack to give him six for the season. ... Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown led the Steelers with 10 catches for 157 yards. He also became the fourth player in Steelers history with at least 9,000 yards from scrimmage (9,041), joining Franco Harris, Hines Ward and Jerome Bettis. ... The Jaguars failed to score on their opening drive for the first time this season. ... The Steelers deactivated RT Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) and started Chris Hubbard.