PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars believe they can take their brand of football anywhere. Regardless of the continent. Regardless of the weather. Regardless of the opponent.
Their play is backing it up.
The franchise-wide makeover sparked by coach Doug Pederson's arrival less than two years ago is gaining momentum on the field, in the standings and — on Sunday anyway — in volume inside the tunnel underneath Acrisure Stadium, where shouts of “we're 6-2!” echoed following a decisive 20-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“We want to make it so people have to match us,” wide receiver Christian Kirk said. “Physicality, toughness and big plays is kind of what we predicate ourselves on.”
All three were on display over the course of three-plus soggy hours as the Jaguars pushed around the Steelers (4-3) for long stretches to overcome three turnovers and win their fifth straight game going away.
Trevor Lawrence threw for 292 yards and connected with longtime teammate Travis Etienne for a 56-yard touchdown late in the third quarter that gave the Jaguars a 14-point cushion.
It's a play the Jaguars have run countless times, with the ball never going Etienne's way. The third-year running back, however, always runs the play as if the ball is coming to him. And when Steelers safety Damontae Kazee and cornerback Joey Porter Jr. hesitated as Lawrence's eyes briefly focused on wide receiver Calvin Ridley in the slot, the quarterback arced the ball over both of them into Etienne's waiting hands.
“That's a tough play for a running back,” Lawrence said. “But him being able to finish it and score, that was a huge play for us.”
The kind of play that's become the norm for Jacksonville, which is now 13-4 over its last 17 regular-season games. The Jaguars have followed an ugly 20-point blowout loss to Houston on Sept. 24 by winning five games in four cities across two continents during an unbeaten October that's seen them strengthen their grip on the AFC South.
“I’m not surprised by the success, but we’re definitely still hungry,” tight end Evan Engram said after catching 10 passes for 88 yards, including a 34-yard gain in the fourth quarter that set up Brandon McManus' fourth field goal.
Etienne ran for 79 yards and caught three passes for 70 yards and the score. Jacksonville's defense — which Steelers wide receiver George Pickens said this week “hoped” its pass rush could get to the quarterback in time to save a shaky secondary — limited the Steelers to 261 total yards.
“I guess we hoped pretty well today,” Jaguars linebacker Foyesade Oluokun said.
Pittsburgh played the second half without quarterback Kenny Pickett, who exited late in the first half with a rib injury after getting drilled by defensive end Adam Gotsis. Mitch Trubisky came on and threw for 139 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to Pickens late in the third quarter that brought the Steelers within 17-10.
Trubisky, however, also threw two interceptions, including one in which he forced a pass into triple coverage early in the fourth quarter that ended up in the hands of Jacksonville's Andrew Wingard to hand the momentum back to the Jaguars.
“It was a force,” Trubisky said. “Good play by them. That's on me. I've got to be better.”
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin offered no update on Pickett’s status. Pittsburgh plays on a short week when it hosts Tennessee on Thursday night.
Wingard celebrated his pick by waving a yellow “Terrible Towel." Lawrence took a little heat online during the week for accurately describing the franchise's ubiquitous symbol as “little” and “yellow,” something he laughed off after Jacksonville won for the sixth time in its last seven trips to Pittsburgh.
“It's part of what makes this game great,” Lawrence said. “You want that fuel. You want to hate your opponent when they come in and make it as hard as possible. I totally understand that.”
Pittsburgh's ire after losing by double-digits for the third time this season was directed not at the Jaguars but the officiating.
Wide receiver Diontae Johnson pointed to a series of calls in the first half — namely a rare offensive offside on a field goal attempt that took three points off the board and the hit on Pickett by Gotsis — that played a significant factor in the outcome.
“They were calling some stupid stuff,” Johnson said. “They should get fined for calling bad ... making terrible calls and stuff like that. That’s how (angry) I am because they cost us the game. I don’t care what nobody says, they cost us the game.”
Steelers: Lost All-Pro free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to a hamstring injury in the first quarter.
Jaguars: Are off next week then welcome San Francisco to TIAA Bank Field on Nov. 12.
Steelers: Have three days to get ready for the Titans (3-4), who beat Atlanta 28-23 on Sunday behind four touchdown passes by rookie quarterback Will Levis.
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