The Eagles play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow in a week 3 rivalry game that will be a tough challenge for both Pederson and Wentz. The Steelers are off to a strong start with an explosive Offense and dominating run Defense..but they’re not unbeatable. Here are the keys to the game for the Eagles this week.
Play to the systematic strengths:
The Steelers Defense tries to eliminate deep shots down the field. Luckily for the Eagles, their five completions of over 20 yards are not one of the more prominent parts of the Offense. The Steelers allowed Giovani Bernard to receiver for over 100 yards and a touchdown last week while eliminating the run..which correlates perfectly with how the Eagles run their Offense.
If the Eagles can consistently find yards over the middle and get the ball out quickly, utilizing the versatility of their backfield and weapons like Trey Burton, they can move the chains efficiently and control the game tempo regardless of whether or not the impressive run is consistently stuffed.
Establish the running game:
The Eagles backfield looks productive on paper..but in the first half against the Bears, they had just 21 rushing yards. With the lingering ankle injury of Ryan Mathews being a slight cause for concern, Darren Sproles saw a lot of action against the Bears..but the Eagles will need a much more communal effort if they’re to top the Steelers impressive run Defense.
Against the Bears it was Darren Sproles who got the first rush when inside the 10 yard line, the next two snaps fell to Kenjon Barner. Sproles then got the fourth at the goal line before the Defensive offside opened the door for Mathews to punch it in.
Sproles is one of the most versatile backs on the Eagles roster and can do plenty of damage in the passing game..but is yet to be utilized in such a fashion. Both Smallwood and Barner have had far fewer carries but showed efficiency in changing the pace. If the different styles can be balanced more evenly, keeping the Steelers on edge with a variety of formations and looks then they may be able to find some momentum on the ground. The running back efficiency will be needed if they are to keep preventing Wentz finding himself in deep holes on third down.
Pressure Big Ben:
The Steelers Offense is stacked with weapons. From Antonio Brown, the returning Marcus Wheaton and Sammie Coates, to emerging TE’s like Jesse James, there’s just so many ways that they can hurt a Defense through the air, without even accounting for DeAngelo Williams. However, while the receivers will naturally draw a lot of attention..the Eagles pass rush has to be relentless.
The Defensive ends have been stealing the show so far with Fletcher Cox drawing all the attention away from the outside, but as the Bengals proved last week, forcing Big Ben to get the ball out quickly or on a short pass drastically reduces his completion percentage.
The Steelers are loaded with deep threats, but if the Eagles linebackers can drop into coverage smoothly to cover the intimidate routes and keep the ball in Roethlisberger’s hands, the Eagles defensive line have more of a chance to wreak the havoc they’ve already established a reputation for and force yet more turnovers.
Cox and Logan simply need to dominate the Steelers Offensive line and puncture through to put as much pressure on one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league today. If they, along with the likes of Brandon Graham can do so while the linebackers are able to drop back into coverage looks more often, it forces Roethlisberger to throw the ball downfield..into what will often likely be double coverage.
The Eagles Defense, especially the Secondary are going to be placed under a microscope this week as they face one of the most high octane Offenses in the league. DeAngelo Williams leads the league in rushing heading into the matchup and will prove to be a tough task for a successful Eagles run Defense.
The run Defense has been more than efficient, but is yet to face a top 10 running back..they now face a veteran averaging more than 4 yards per carry. The Steelers rely on the power of Williams to move the chains and punch up the gut of Defenses..something that’s proven effective against two Defenses who are no pushovers.
If the birds can find a way to contain Williams and somewhat limit his production, it places more pressure on the O-Line and big Ben to get the ball out quickly against a pass rush who will be licking their lips.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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