Sunday night dinner: Steelers vs. Jaguars
By VIC TAFUR | October 4, 2008 |
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As we look at our meal before the big Ben Roethlisberger-David Garrard heavyweight tilt, we notice one thing missing from the table: the juice. Where is the juice?

Oh, we lost it all … thanks to our 4-4 record in this spot.

No worries. Soon we will be running a juice bar out of our kitchen. One of these teams is starting a fourth-string running back behind a banged up offensive line, on the road against a team that has beaten it four straight times.

And not even getting a touchdown from the Vegas experts.

And did we mention Pittsburgh’s quarterback, Mr. Roethlisberger, has missed practice due to a tender shoulder?

The Steelers, third in the NFL in rushing last season, lost Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker to a sprained knee two weeks ago and first-round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall to a season-ending fractured shoulder last Monday night against Baltimore.

Fullback Carey Davis moved over to get some handoffs and the Ravens jacked up his ankle. He is likely out this weekend as well.

That leaves Mewelde Moore, former third-down back of the Minnesota Vikings. The Steelers also brought back two players from last season by re-signing Najeh Davenport and promoting Gary Russell from the practice squad on Wednesday.

Franco Harris apparently couldn't be talked out of retirement.

Still, they plan on trying to run the ball like they always do. So says receiver Hines Ward.

Really, Hines?

“We’re not going to abandon ship and say we’re going to give up on the run because of some injuries,” Ward said. “We’re not going to do it. We never have. We’re not going to go away from our identity.”

Still, Pittsburgh will surely have a lot more screen plays than usual in the game plan.

The Steelers will have a makeshift offensive line after losing guard Kendall Simmons for the season against the Ravens with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

But there’s no guarantee the Jaguars can take advantage, since they only have five sacks in four games. Only five teams have fewer sacks.

Rookies Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves have been a little underwhelming and veterans Reggie Hayward, Paul Spicer and John Henderson have been flat-out disappointing.

Both Jaguars starting cornerbacks, Drayton Florence (groin injury) and Rashean Mathis (knee) aren’t 100 percent so Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes may be able to make some big plays.

Offensively, Jacksonville had mixed results against Pittsburgh last season. In the regular-season game, Fred Taylor had 147 yards and a touchdown as the Jaguars rushed for 224 yards.

The Steelers, though, changed their strategy in the second game and held him to 48 yards as the Jaguars rushed for only 138 yards. Fifty-eight of those came on runs by Garrard. Pittsburgh packed the box even more than usual to stop the run, bringing safety Troy Polamalu up and having him shoot the gap.

“He’s an excellent penetrator,” Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “When you get a guy who can split your blocking scheme, penetrate it and knock off pullers, it’s disruptive. They did a nice job of that the second game.”

Jacksonville may have to depend on Garrard, and he is finally developing some chemistry with receiver Matt Jones. Maurice Jones-Drew can also hurt the Steelers catching balls out of the backfield.

There you have it. Jaguars and the over. Pass the juice.