Will the Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker group be healthy enough to have an impact vs. Steelers?

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 08: Telvin Smith /

The Jacksonville Jaguars already face a tough challenge against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but a key position group is ailing.

An essential part of making a run in the playoffs is being healthy at the right time. Last week against the Buffalo Bills, the Jacksonville Jaguars were as healthy as the team has been in the last half of the season, at least. But the week leading up to the divisional round matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Jaguars are reeling at a crucial position.

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As the team hit the practice field for the first time on Wednesday to prepare for Pittsburgh, linebackers Telvin Smith and Paul Posluszny were already held out from participating, with an ankle and abdomen injury, respectively. So the Jaguars were already behind the eight ball at the linebacker group to start preparations.

Then when Jacksonville began the practice, this happened:

With Smith and Posluszny out, Blair Brown assuredly received time with the starters on defense on Wednesday as he would step in if one of the two couldn’t go on Sunday. But he himself went down with an ankle injury. With the injury to Brown, combated with the preexisting injuries to Telvin and Poz, the list of healthy linebackers at the moment has been reduced to this:

That is not a pleasant sight just a few days out from a game with the Steelers. Now as grim as that appears, Telvin Smith and Paul Posluszny are both expected to play on Sunday, and the duo returned to practice in a limited role on Thursday.

The Jaguars have staked claim to the best defense in the league, but the unit is undoubtedly better with Smith on the field. His presence, as both a playmaker and vocal leader cannot be overstated.

Going up against a Pittsburgh offense not absent of explosive players of their own, lacking healthy starters in the front seven would be a blemish that would need overcoming with support from the fellow position groups. The defense wouldn’t completely fall apart without the likes of Smith or Posluszny, it’s just too talented of an ensemble. But having those guys healthy enough to play their normal roles and having the defense as fully staffed as possible heightens Jacksonville’s chances of pulling out the win exponentially.

It’s not time to panic about the current state of the linebacker group for the Jacksonville Jaguars. But in a road matchup versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, it is pivotal that the group is as heavily equipped as it can be in the divisional round battle.