Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has warned his unbeaten team against complacency as they look to extend their winning streak to 10 games against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Florida on Sunday.
The Steelers have made the best start to a season in franchise history this year, going 9-0 to top the AFC North and firmly establish themselves as authentic Super Bowl contenders.
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On Sunday they face a Jaguars side who are officially the second worst team in the NFL, propping up the AFC South with just one win and eight defeats. Only the 0-9 New York Jets have a worse record.
Yet recent results have hinted at a possible Jacksonville revival, with a narrow 27-25 loss to the Houston Texans followed by a 24-20 defeat against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field last weekend.
Tomlin says those results should give the Steelers all the forewarning they need as they prepare for Sunday’s game at TIAA Bank Field.
“Every time we step into a stadium, we’re playing professionals, players and coaches,” Tomlin told reporters this week.
“We’ve got a ridiculous level of respect for that. Write your story, follow your storylines about trap games and things of that nature.
“We understand what we’re going into in Jacksonville — and that’s a group that’s trying to kick our butt. A professional group, capable group, and we’re preparing with that understanding.”
– ‘Rough and tumble’ –
And while current form makes the Steelers overwhelming favourites, Tomlin is all too aware that the Jaguars have history on their side, winning six of their last 10 meetings with Pittsburgh.
“We’ve always had rough and tumble games with those guys down there,” Tomlin said. “They always play really tough defense.”
The Steelers however, hold all the aces. Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is in superb form, throwing for 333 yards and four touchdowns in his last outing against the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend.
The Steelers defense also lead the league in sacks, with 36, and will be relishing the prospect of being unleashed against rookie Jaguars quarterback Jake Luton, who is starting for only the third time.
“Sacks happen, tackles happen, all those things happen,” Luton said this week. “That’s football and it’s all about playing the next play and sticking to our game plan.”
Elsewhere Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs are out to avenge the lone blemish on their season when they face the Las Vegas Raiders in Nevada in a divisional battle simmering with hostility.
– Grudge match –
The Raiders stunned the reigning Super Bowl champions 40-32 in week five, and then irritated the Chiefs after taking a victory lap around Arrowhead Stadium in their team bus — complete with police escort — as they headed home.
“They won the game, so they can do anything they want to do,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said this week. “That’s not our style, but we’ll get ourselves back and ready to play. That’s where we’re at.
“It’s two good football teams playing each other. I don’t think either team likes the other that much, as they’ve stated before.”
On Monday, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense are likely to face a searching examination of their credentials against the Los Angeles Rams.
The Rams defense shutdown the free-scoring Seattle Seahawks last weekend to go joint top of the NFC West, arguably the toughest division in the NFL.
The formidable presence of defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey will fancy their chances of causing problems for Brady and the Bucs offense, who piled on 46 points in a rout of the Carolina Panthers last week.