PITTSBURGH — The new-look Jacksonville Jaguars just might be for real.
Telvin Smith and Barry Church returned a pair of Ben Roethlisberger’s interceptions for touchdowns and Jacksonville stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-9 on Sunday.
Jacksonville (3-2) beat the Steelers for the first time in a decade by relying heavily on the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense. The Jaguars picked Roethlisberger off five times in all and sacked him twice. Rookie Leonard Fournette ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns for the Jaguars, who are over .500 after five games for the first time since 2010 and have already matched their victory total from 2016.
Roethlisberger completed 33 of 55 for 312 yards and his career-high five interceptions, the most by a Pittsburgh quarterback since Mark Malone threw five against Cleveland in 1987.
A week after a sideline outburst generated headlines and drew Roethlisberger’s ire, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for 157 yards.
Brown was also the intended receiver on a pair of third-quarter passes the opportunistic Jaguars turned into points. The Steelers led 9-7 when Roethlisberger looked left for Brown. Jacksonville defensive lineman Abry Jones tipped it into the hands of Smith, who chugged 28 yards to put Jacksonville in front with 6:38 left in the period.
The Jaguars defense struck again on Pittsburgh’s next series. Roethlisberger tried to hit Brown down the sideline. Jalen Ramsey deflected it and Church came down with it. A 51-yard sprint later and Jacksonville had turned a two-point deficit into an 11-point lead without taking an offensive snap.
When Tashaun Gipson made a leaping pick near the Jacksonville goal line in the final minutes to thwart any chance of a Pittsburgh rally, it gave the Jaguars 15 takeaways on the season. They managed an NFL-low 13 while going 3-13 in 2016.
Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles passed for just 95 yards and a pick, but the way Fournette ran the ball and the defense pushed the Steelers around, it hardly mattered.
Fournette gave the Jaguars an early lead with a spectacular 2-yard touchdown dive in the second quarter. He provided an exclamation point on his team’s most impressive road victory in ages with a 90-yard sprint in the final minutes.
Jaguars: Host the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday.
Steelers: Travel to Kansas City next week in a rematch of last year’s AFC Divisional Round playoff. Pittsburgh edged the Chiefs 15-13 to reach the AFC title game.