After last week’s strong outing for most of the starting cast against the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars fans were hoping for more of the same against the Pittsburgh Steelers at TIAA Bank Stadium on Saturday night. While the team brought “more good than bad” in the performance according to quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville fell short of Pittsburgh after a missed 57-yard field goal in the closing seconds, 16-15.
The Jacksonville offense got to see Christian Kirk in game action for the first time this season. His first catch was the team’s opening first down of the evening. Throughout his five-catch, 54-yard performance, Kirk was able to break open in his routes and throw solid blocks to open up lanes downfield for teammates.
Kirk talked about the communication with Lawrence and how the offense was a big reason for his success.
“The second drive of the game, we ran a play and it was a certain look. I don’t think we ended up converting, but I went back to Trevor and said, ‘Hey if we run this again, there’s a zone there — just throw it early and I feel confident that we’ll be able to take advantage of it,” stated Kirk.
Sure enough, when they got down in the red zone, they ran the same play, same route, Lawrence saw it early and completed it.
“That’s just the trust and communication that we have,” Kirk said.
Lawrence missed a handful of open targets during his half of play including three missed third-down attempts to open receivers, Kirk and Marvin Jones in the end zone from seven yards out. None the less, the Jaguars went 5-for-9 in the first half before rotating out the first team.
“Third down is something the last two weeks where we’ve done a really good job,” said Lawrence. That’s been a big emphasis for us because last year we weren’t a good third down team.”
Although Trevor finished 14-for-21 for 133 yards and no touchdowns as well as a 12-yard scamper on one of his two carries for 13 yards, he took full responsibility for the misses and was confident in the relationship he and Kirk have built so far.
“I don’t really think that [chemistry is a problem for us], it’s just two missed throws.,” Lawrence said.
#Jags QB Trevor Lawrence talked about his confidence playing with WR Christian Kirk on his 5 catch and 54 yard night He also took accountability for the connection they missed out on. #duuuval @3ptCnvrsn pic.twitter.com/1J6f2MgTRa
— Kyle Nash (@TheSoTG) August 21, 2022
Running back and kick returner Jamal Agnew was also welcomed back into the lineup much to the joy of Jaguars fans. Agnew’s status was a highpoint for a special teams unit that struggled with missed kicks and muffed punts in various points of the night. While kicker Ryan Santoso missed the first field goal attempt from 51 yards out, he booted the next pair through from 53 and 22 yards out.
Both starting defensive fronts had success early. 2021 Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt was giving Jacksonville’s right tackles fits by drawing holding penalties while pressuring Lawrence. Arden Key recorded a sack of Trubisky fresh off of being signed.
With a 7-6 halftime score, backups took over to get further reps. After a safety by Jaguars defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot forcing an intentional grounding in the end zone, C.J. Beathard led his group to a touchdown in the fourth quarter to make it 15-7 for the Jag lead.
However, Mason Rudolph commanded Pittsburgh to nine unanswered points with help from his defense snagging an interception in the closing minutes. Third-string quarterback E.J. Perry set up Santoso with a 57-yard shot at heroism but the kick missed wildly to the right.
While Lawrence, as a second-year player, is locked in as the starter for the Jags, the Steelers have a competition between Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett at quarterback. Pickett is listed third on the depth chart but has taken significant time playing with the starters in camp.
Trubisky got the start for the Steelers and delivered 5-of-8 passing with 60 yards on the night with no touchdowns. Pickett stepped in during the final 5:00 minutes of the first half where he led his group to the the first touchdown of the night on a 63-yard drive that concluded with an 11-yard pass to running back Benny Snell Jr. for a score. The first-round draft pick out of Pittsburgh went 6-for-7 for 76 yards passing and a touchdown.
The Jags head to Atlanta for their final preseason contest against the Falcons.