When the Pittsburgh Steelers announced a venue name change this week from Heinz Field to the odd-sounding Acrisure Stadium, it was also bound to be a sentimental loss for Jaguars fans.
Despite the Jaguars’ spotty record over the past two decades, no Steelers opponent has enjoyed greater success at Heinz Field. Although it’s a small sample, the Jaguars have gone 5-2 in the 21 seasons a pair of ketchup bottles have flanked the scoreboard in the Steelers’ home.
The Jaguars’ .714 winning percentage is better than anyone, with the New England Patriots being the only other team to have a winning record (6-3) in Heinz.
Pittsburgh beat the Jaguars 20-7 on their Heinz debut in 2001, and also lost 17-13 in 2011 when the quarterback Blaine Gabbert completed just 12 of 26 passes for 109 yards.
But in every other matchup at Heinz, the Jaguars were like kryptonite for the future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben had a 93-21 record at Heinz but was a 1-4 pedestrian against the Jaguars on his home turf. Considering the Patriots are the only other opponent with a winning record (4-3) over Roethlisberger at Heinz, that’s pretty remarkable.
Among the Jaguars’ Heinz wins are two of the most iconic victories in franchise history, both in the playoffs. They won 31-29 in an AFC wild-card game in 2007 on a last-second basket by Josh Scobeethen prevailed in a 45-42 shootout in an AFC Divisional game in 2017.
The Jaguars, the only NFL team to win twice (2007, 17) in the same season at Heinz Field, are set to face the Steelers in 2023 at Acrisure Stadium. Maybe they should bring a bottle of Heinz ketchup and keep it on their bench for good luck. . . .
His brother’s keeper:Jaguars OC Press Taylor and Bengals coach Zac Taylor related by blood
Up to speed:Jaguars rookie cornerback Gregory Junior in the flow ahead of training camp
Coughlin embarrassing omission
When the 12-person committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its 29 semi-finalists in the coach/contributor category last week, it was a glaring omission that the two-time Super Bowl championship coach Tom Coughlin was not on the list.
According to the HOF spokesperson Rich DesrosiersThe reason Coughlin — he coached the Jaguars from 1995-2002 and made four playoff appearances — wasn’t among the semifinalists is because no one nominated him for consideration. The PFHOF requires that all senior and coach/contributor nominees receive at least two nominations.
Since Coughlin became eligible in 2021, he has yet to be nominated. Anyone wishing to nominate him for the Hall of Fame Class of 2024 can begin submitting their name to the Hall immediately. From the former Las Vegas Raiders coach and two-time SB champion Tom Flores recently made the HOF with a less impressive resume, Coughlin’s chances of being enshrined look solid, provided he is nominated. . . .
The short game of the still missing tiger
The recurring theme of Tiger Woods is that a combination of injury recovery, being 46 and competitive rust makes it nearly impossible for him to play well with any consistency.
After shooting a third-round 79 at the PGA Championship in May before retiring, his first-round 78 Thursday at the St. Andrews Open in his first tournament back validated the struggle he has become to regain some something close to normal form. He shot 74 on Friday to finish 8 over par, a long way from the equal par or 1-under projection.
More than anywhere else, Woods’ decline is most evident around the greens. His chipping was shaky, and arguably the best putter in history couldn’t get a feel for the greens at St. Andrews.
Over the past two years, Tiger hasn’t been as automatic inside 8-footers as it used to be. He had 35 putts on Thursday and 36 on Friday, birdieing 4 feet on the final hole. Woods, who later said he wasn’t sure he could physically play another Open at St. Andrews, gave himself few legitimate birdie chances on 36 holes, despite the scoring conditions.
Until Tiger is healthy enough to play around 12-15 tournaments a year, his chances of being a weekend contender outside of the Masters – the only place where his experience and knowledge of the course plays the more in his favor – could disappear forever.
The LIV nightmare looms
Despite Royal & Ancient’s huge statement to exclude Tsar LIV Greg Norman since celebrating the Open’s 150th anniversary and giving the proverbial cold shoulder in various ways to LIV defectors, he might have to sweat a potential PR nightmare.
A LIV golfer, Dustin Johnson, was temporarily at the top of the standings after shooting 67 on Friday to reach 9 under par, although he was soon overtaken by champion The Players and the Aussie Cam Smithwho took the lead at under 13 heading into the weekend after shooting 64. Talor Gooch, another LIV defector, is also in the top 10 at 7-under.
The prospect of Johnson closing in on a career Grand Slam by lifting the jug of Bordeaux on Sunday, much to Norman’s delight, would be awfully embarrassing for the R&A and the PGA Tour. . . .
Golden bear last hurrah
If you haven’t caught 82 Jack Nicklaus getting emotional on Tuesday at the Open after becoming only the third person – join benjamin franklin and Bobby Jones – receiving honorary citizenship from St. Andrews, it could have been the most poignant moment of his formidable career.
Nicklaus has won every significant golf tournament and received as many honors outside of the game as anyone, but it felt different for a reason: it just might be the last great golfing moment of his life.
The Golden Bear’s love of St. Andrews, where he won two of his three Open championships, is well documented. To be honored in this way at the birthplace of golf, at his 150th Open, was a fitting end to what is likely his last visit to the sport’s ultimate cathedral. . . .
College Football Movement Ratings
Over the next few months, Bettor Bovada is giving bettors a chance to bet on the schools most likely to rush to the SEC or Big Ten Conference. While the numbers fluctuate daily, the current top picks to join the SEC are Clemson (+180), Miami (+235), Florida State (+250) and Louisville (+500). Bovada’s chances of joining the Big Ten are led by Notre Dame (+135), Oregon (+190) and Stanford (+650). . . .
Jumbo Shrimp bats cooling off at home
If the Jumbo Shrimp (46-41 entering Friday’s game at Syracuse) want to come out of a six-pack contender to win the International League’s East Division, their offense needs to kick in when they play at home. Jacksonville’s Triple-A team is hitting a meager .234 with a .380 hitting percentage at 121 Financial Ballpark, compared to a .276 batting average and .483 SP on the road. Only 41 of the shrimp’s 118 home runs have come home.
Of the Shrimp’s 57 remaining games, 30 are in Jacksonville. If they expect to make the playoffs (the only way is to win the division), then Daren BrownThe ball club must start the bats at 121 Financial Ballpark. Shrimp get solid production from first baseman Lewin Diaz (.262, 18 HR, 62 RBI), second baseman Charles LeBlanc (.298, 13 HR, 43 RBI) and outfielder JJ Bleday (.221, 19 HR, 48 RBI), but need more consistency in range. . . .
One last summer break
With the Jaguars scheduled to report to training camp on July 24, I will be taking another off-season vacation next week. The column will resume on July 27.
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