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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Allen Hurns' blunders are starting to overshadow his big plays.
The undrafted rookie from Miami dropped three passes during Jacksonville's first four drives and was flagged for offensive holding in a 17-9 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday that kept the Jaguars winless.
It was the latest step back for Hurns, who raised eyebrows by catching two touchdown passes in his NFL debut in the season opener at Philadelphia.
But he's let six passes slip through his fingers since, including one for a sure touchdown in Week 2 at Washington.
"I'm very disappointed," said Hurns, who has 16 receptions for 280 yards and three scores. "You've got to be accountable. When the ball's coming to you, you've got to make those plays. So at the end of the day it's not acceptable. It's all about being consistent. When the plays come to you, you've got to make them."
Hurns wasn't Jacksonville's only issue against the Steelers (3-2).
Rookie Blake Bortles, making his first start at home, threw two interceptions. His second was returned 22 yards for a touchdown that gave Pittsburgh some breathing room in a one-point game.
"Bad read, bad throw," Bortles said.
Brice McCain stepped in front of Hurns early in the fourth quarter, picked off Bortles' wobbly sideline pass and went untouched the other way.
Trailing by eight, the Jaguars (0-5) forced a punt and got the ball back. But Bortles failed to muster a first down.
Ben Roethlisberger closed it out from there, directing a four-minute drive that ran out the clock.
Pittsburgh's defense looked somewhat suspect in the first four games, giving up 350 yards and 25 points a game.
It seemed to return to form against Jacksonville — no surprise given defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's history against rookie quarterbacks.
The Jaguars finished with 243 yards and were 3 of 12 on third-down conversions. The Steelers improved to 18-2 against rookie QBs since LeBeau returned in 2004. McCain's pick was the highlight.
The Jaguars didn't want a moral victory, but surely they will try to build on a close loss after dropping their past five games by double digits.
Jacksonville was in this one from start to finish.
Bortles completed 22 of 36 passes for 191 yards. He was hampered by the dropped passes and a handful of untimely penalties, including a couple of questionable holding calls early.
Jacksonville had plenty of chances to make amends, but Pittsburgh held on three trips inside the 25-yard line and forced the Jags to settle for field goals.
"I thought there were some plays out there that we left on the field," coach Gus Bradley said. "We had some dropped balls that I know we've made in practice and now we've got to bring it to the game and make those plays. As a team we need to finish better. Marked improvement, but we're still not there yet."
Jacksonville's defensive effort was the biggest surprise, holding the Steelers' offense to 10 points.
The Jaguars had been gouged in every game this season, giving up an average of 451 yards and 38 points in the first four weeks.
"At the end of the day, our focus here is to get better and to correct the things we haven't been doing well," cornerback Alan Ball. "Today, just playing for four quarters, that's what I'm energized about. That's one thing we should build on."
The defense gave Jacksonville a chance. The unit can only hope to keep improving. Bortles and Hurns should expect the same.
"I've got to make those plays," Hurns said. "There's no reason I shouldn't make them."
Notes: Steelers backup SS Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) left the game and did not return. ... Jaguars lost RBs Toby Gerhart, Storm Johnson, and Jordan Todman to ankle injuries at different points in the game. ... Jaguars WR Ace Sanders caught two passes for 12 yards and returned three punts for 14 yards in his first game back from a four-game suspension.
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