PerspectivesCole Pepper Jacksonville Today Contributor
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. (1) beats Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (24) and safety Damontae Kazee (23) on a 56-yard touchdown reception during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Matt Freed)

SPORTS | Jaguars gritty, not pretty in win over Steelers

Published on October 29, 2023 at 4:48 pm
Jacksonville Today seeks to include a diverse set of perspectives that add context or unique insight to the news of the day. Regular opinion columnists are independent contractors who are not involved in news decisions. Want to submit your own column on a matter of public interest? Email pitches to

The Jaguars’ performance on Sunday wasn’t a work of art but it was a win. 


The Jaguars’ trend of playing less-than-pristine football but still winning continued in a 20-10 victory over the Steelers Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Jacksonville Today thanks our sponsors. Become one.

The Jaguars have won eight straight games away from Jacksonville since last season. They have also won five straight games this season. At 6-2, the Jaguars control the AFC South as they reach the bye week.

The Jaguars were their own worst enemies in the first half. A pair of turnovers, including a Trevor Lawrence interception in the endzone cost the team at least six points, perhaps more.

Then, on the first drive of the second half, running back Tank Bigsby fumbled the ball away as Travis Etienne was getting treatment for an injury on the sidelines.

Article continues below

Jacksonville Today thanks our sponsors. Become one.

Kicker Brandon McManus continued his terrific season, making all three first-half field goal attempts, including two from 50 yards or more.

The Steelers’ offensive struggles continued. Coming into the game, Pittsburgh’s offense ranked next-to-last in the NFL. They didn’t do much to help their cause all day. The only touchdown the Jaguars allowed came late in the third quarter when Mitchell Trubisky, playing for the injured Kenny Pickett, connected with wide receiver George Pickens on a 22-yard touchdown.

Facing a third and 10 at the Pittsburgh 32-yard line with just over 11 minutes to play and the Jaguars leading 17-10, Jacksonville tried to let Pittsburgh back in the game. The Jaguars were in field goal range for McManus, but instead of running the ball, they called a pass play. Worse still, the formation left rookie right tackle Anton Harrison one-on-one against All-Pro pass rusher T.J. Watt. Harrison had struggled against Watt earlier in the game without help, and on a potentially pivotal play, Watt beat Harrison and sacked Lawrence. The Jaguars were pushed out of field goal territory.

It was up to the defense to bail out the rest of the team. And they did. Andrew Wingard, starting in place of the injured Andre Cisco at safety, picked off Trubisky. This time, the offense responded, moving into field goal range and—this time—playing it safe, setting McManus up for his fourth field goal of the game.

Etienne deserves kudos for his performance. He scored the only Jaguars touchdown on a 56-yard reception despite an ankle injury. He also scored the two-point conversion following the touchdown.

The Jaguars’ 6-2 start to the season matches the team’s second-best record after eight games. Only the 1999 team had seven wins at this point in the season.

Last year, the Jaguars lost five games in October. This year, they won all five games in the month.

Last season, the Jaguars won seven of nine regular season games after October. If they do the same this season, they’ll have a chance at home field advantage in the AFC.

Now, they will have time to rest and heal over the bye week before hosting the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 12.

Lead image: Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. (1) beats Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (24) and safety Damontae Kazee (23) on a 56-yard touchdown reception on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Pittsburgh. | AP Photo, Matt Freed

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

Cole Pepper has covered sports in Jacksonville since 1996, most recently for News4Jax. He is currently broadcast director for Sporting Club Jacksonville and has called play-by-play for a number of teams, including the Suns, Tomcats, Jacksonville University, Sharks and The Bolles School football. He also served as the studio host for the Jaguars Radio Network.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.