Thursday night’s preseason game seemed to be a pipe dream just thirteen days prior. The Eagles’ preseason opener in Chicago left fans wondering if the team had gone into hiding, and replaced themselves with the local high school players. Nick Foles threw two—nearly three–interceptions to a mediocre Bears defense. Chicago rendered LeSean McCoy useless in the first quarter, albeit with only a couple of carries to his name, and framed the offensive line like rag dolls.
Against the Steelers, the Eagles looked like world beaters in a 24-0 first-team romp. The offense moved the ball at will, putting up three touchdowns and 482 yards of total offense. The team, save for placekicker Alex Henery, looked in mid-season form. The next day,radio shows and media outlets alike began to raise expectations, a knee-jerk reaction that has become a propensity in Philadelphia.
Was it too good to be true?
The Steeler offense that faced the Eagles ranked 20th in total offense a year ago. Steeler running backs ranked 27th in rushing yards per game. All the Eagles had to do was bottle up a pedestrian running attack, biding their time for a third-and-long situation. Pittsburgh was in third-and-5 or longer on seven occasions during the first three quarters of play. The likes of Beau Allen, Cedric Thornton, and Trent Cole feared on the weak running game.
Once the Steelers were set for third down, Bill Davis’ was able to sell out his front seven with regular season blitz packages. The team flooded through a dismal offensive line, which surrendered 43 sacks a year ago: over two sacks a game. While the defense only notched two sacks, the pass rushers certainly put Ben Roethlisberger under duress, ultimately forcing him to throw an errant pass into the arms of Nolan Carroll.
Defensively, the proof was in the pudding for Pittsburgh. The Steelers missed tackles, lolly-gagged getting off blockers, and blew coverage assignments. When Troy Polamalu vents in frustration on the sidelines, yelling that “[they] better straighten things out or it’s gonna be a long year,” it’s clear that the Steelers allowed the Eagles to boss the game. Philadelphia will be facing some defenses that can compete much harder than this soft Steeler defense.
Sure, the Steelers and Eagles implemented some regular season wrinkles. The game was solid dress rehearsal for the season ahead. But for media members and fans to ask more of the Eagles ignores the massive shortcomings of a Steeler team that, truthfully, is going nowhere fast.