PITTSBURGH - Former Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny made a big decision during the offseason, leaving Buffalo for a free agent deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Better contract, better climate and better football team.
Two of those were indisputable, but the football part hasn't gone the way he thought.
Mirror photo by J.D.?Cavrich
Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny records one of his game-high 16 tackles on Ben Roethlisberger.
Posluszny had a game-high 16 tackles in Jacksonville's 17-13 loss to the Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon.
The Jaguars fell to 1-5, while the Bills lost to the New York Giants, 27-24. The Bills are 4-2, one game off the lead in the AFC East.
"They're doing great," Posluszny said. "The thing about it was they always had talent up there. They just finally got it together. They are getting it together."
The Bills never had a winning season in Posluszny's five years there, and went through three head coaches.
Still, when it came time to leave, he had reservations.
"It was difficult to leave there," he said. "They were great teammates and great guys. I still keep in touch with a lot of them. Jacksonville, I could just tell they wanted me a lot more. I wanted to be part of this team and this organization."
The Jaguars invested $42 million in Posluszny, $15 million of which is guaranteed. They installed him at middle linebacker in their traditional 4-3 scheme, and he's excelled.
Could Jacksonville be headed for the kind of turnaround the Bills have experienced?
"I think we're close," Posluszny said. "I think we're just a couple of plays away from being great on defense. It's two or three plays that we have to make that we aren't making right now. It's affecting the outcome of these games."
The Steelers got one of their touchdowns on a 28-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace. Rashard Mendenhall's 68-yard run set up a field goal.
"We're in a tough situation right now," he said. "We just lost five straight. It's difficult, but all we can do is fight, work and stay together."
If it means anything, the Jaguars didn't cave in after falling behind 17-0. They made a game of it against the Steelers in a tough environment.
"There's definitely no quit in this team," Posluszny said. "We have a high character team and a lot of guys who want to win. That's going to be the case regardless of the record or the score. We're always going to fight until the end."
There's more than half a season left to improve, but 1-5 is a tough start.
"It's difficult for all of us," Posluszny said. "Nobody thought we would be in the situation we're in right now, but that's reality. We have to deal with it."
The best part of Posluszny's trips home have been the Saturday visits with family and friends. The Sundays have been difficult.
"It's always fun to come back here and play," he said. "I love being in western Pennsylvania. I love being in front of my family and friends that I grew up with. Unfortunately, I don't have much luck here, playing as a pro at Heinz Field."
Back in a flash
After sitting out last week's game because of a hamstring injury, Rashard Mendenhall returned and gained 146 yards on 23 carries.
Mendenhall ran a career-best 68 yards on one play and also had an 8-yard run for the Steelers' first touchdown.
"He ran the ball well," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "The offensive line opened up some holes for him."
Mendenhall said he didn't make any changes in deference to his injury.
"I've been running the same way for 24 years," he said. "You can't change your style in a week."
Tomlin said he monitored Mendenhall's physical condition and decided he was good to go.
"We made eye contact. He nodded that he was good," Tomlin said. "We're looking for guys who are highly conditioned. He's one of those. He did a nice job."
Meanwhile, teammate Mike Wallace, one of the fastest players in the NFL, couldn't resist poking some fun at the way Mendenhall was caught short of the end zone.
"I told him he's slow," Wallace said. "He has to get his speed up. If we would have a stride like me, he would have scored a touchdown. I'm going to be on him the whole week."
Roethlisberger said the Jaguars' defense, an easy touch in the first half, played up to its capabilities in the second half.
"They're the 10th best defense in the league," he said. "They're not pushovers. They made the necessary adjustments and found ways to get disruptive with us. We just have to keep our foot to the pedal and keep grinding."
The radical difference in the two halves made for a day of conflicting emotions.
"It's frustrating because my expectations for this offense are high," he said. "I'm going to be a little frustrated for another half hour, and then I'm going to be happy that we won the game."
In the air
It was a windy day, which caused some problems when the ball was in the air.
When the Steelers needed a big punt late, Daniel Sepulveda hit one for just 23 yards that gave the Jaguars the ball near midfield.
"He said he just wanted to take off and run," Roethlisberger said. "He didn't even want to punt it."
The wind made some throws challenging, too.
"It was what it was," Roethlisberger said. "It's Heinz Field, where one series it's blowing one way, then just swirls on you. No excuses. You just have to drive the ball through it."
The turf, always an issue as the season goes on, showed its first signs of wear. Pitt played a game Saturday afternoon.
Some strips of sod in the middle of the field were replaced after Sunday's game.
Too close to call
Safety Ryan Mundy was called for roughing the punter, although it appeared he got a piece of the ball.
If the player rushing the punter touches the ball, there can be no penalty for making contact with the kicker.
"It was very close," Mundy said. "That's a tough call. I'll have to look at it. I felt like I got a slight piece of it."
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley got into a fight with Jacksonville fullback Greg Jones.
Both players got offsetting personal foul penalties but were not ejected.
"He's a good football player," Jones said. "I won't take anything away from him. It was competing. That was it."
Right guard Doug Legursky left the game with a sprained toe in the first half.
"That's being evaluated," coach Mike Tomlin said.
Safety Troy Polamalu made a big hit late in the game, but the Steelers feared he may have sustained a concussion during the play. He was held out.
"We wanted to err on the side of caution," Tomlin said. "We'll get that evaluated and find out where he's at."
Safety Ryan Clark injured a shoulder and Chris Hoke went out with a stinger.
Hoke was replacing starter Casey Hampton, who didn't suit up for the game because of a shoulder injury.
When Hoke went out, the Steelers were down to their third option at nose tackle, Steve McLendon.
The Steelers are 17-1 in games Hoke has started.
Stats and streaks
n Hines Ward caught three passes for 47 yards and now has 11,939 career receiving yards.
He moved past Hall of Famer Michael Irvin (11,904) for 19th place on the NFL career list.
n Tomlin is now the third-winningest coach in Steelers history at 52-25. He passed Buddy Parker (51-48), who coached the team from 1957-64.
Tomlin has the best winning percentage at .675.
He trails Chuck Noll (209-156) and Bill Cowher (161-99).