PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coordinator Todd Haley said he considers his team's 30-9 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 8 a turning point for his offense. Pittsburgh went on to win eight straight games after that meeting, losing only to the New England Patriots in mid-December.
Haley thinks the Steelers have gotten better because of that day.
"That game for our entire group was a watershed moment. A lot of outside factors that could have been divisive for our group," Haley said. "Take my hat off for my guys. They stuck together. Bad football, probably not as bad as it appeared. How we responded to it was very critical. Our guys handled adversity well and moved forward."
Sunday's AFC divisional-round game against Jacksonville will test that theory. The Steelers played about as bad as it gets in their previous meeting against the Jaguars, turning the ball over and failing to establish a run game, gaining only 70 net yards on the ground. Now that it's the postseason, there are no more excuses.
"In this league, you have to be getting better every week. The execution got cleaner and cleaner," Haley said. "Now the real action starts. Good group we’re going against. No different than any other week -- we have to get better this week ...
"I had great confidence in that group, we just didn’t play our best. New year, new season, biggest game yet."
The Steelers will have their hands full trying to keep the ball off the ground and away from a Jaguars defense that is as good as any team in the league at forcing turnovers. They experienced that firsthand the last time when Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions.
"Their front four is an elite group. Across the board, they are as good as we’ll see," Haley said. "That matchup will be critical. This is an elite secondary also. It’ll be a great matchup and we have to be at our best. ...
"They are good at disrupting the football. Whether that’s knocking balls down or getting at the QB. We got a big QB in Ben that’s good at finding throwing lanes -- not to say they won’t disrupt one or two, but I’ll take my chances with our guy."