The Pittsburgh Steelers were dominated yesterday by their intra-state rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. While the Steelers had a poor showing and struggled on both sides of the ball, things aren’t as bad as they seemed. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz had yet another terrific game. While Wentz’s playmaking ability is obvious, what’s most impressive is the fact that he still hasn’t thrown his first career interception. The Steelers lack of a running game and the defense’s lack of pressure on Wentz led to a long, painful evening for Steelers fans.
Steelers Fans Shouldn’t Worry
Chris Boswell’s blocked field goal early in the game led to an early 10-0 lead for the Eagles. This led to the Steelers playing catch-up for the entire game and the running game wasn’t able to get established. DeAngelo Williams only had eight carries and finished with only 21 yards rushing, while Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball 44 times for 257 yards. The return of Le’Veon Bell will help the Steelers running game tremendously, and it’s a good thing because Roethlisberger and the offensive line struggled without having a solid running game to help move the ball.
The Return of Le’Veon Bell
While Bell’s return will definitely help the running game, the offensive line still showed some weaknesses against the Eagles. Roethlisberger didn’t have much time to throw the ball and missed open receivers due to being hurried or pressured by defenders. The Steelers offense faced a lot of third downs because of their struggling running game, but Williams isn’t the only one to blame. The offensive line struggled to open holes for Williams and were being pushed back all game long. Luckily, Bell is able to succeed even with mediocre blocking. As good as Williams is (possibly the best back-up running back in the NFL), Bell is on another level and his ability to read the field will help the Steelers offense get easier third downs to convert.
Antonio Brown Can’t Do It All
The only player on the Steelers offense who had a good game on Sunday was Antonio Brown. Brown finished with 12 receptions for 140 yards, amounting to nearly half of the Steelers total offense. Brown can’t do it all though. Sammie Coates showed promise with another nice long-ball reception, but the return of Markus Wheaton left much to be desired. Wheaton struggled and dropped some easy catches. On the opposite side of the ball, Eagles cornerback Malcolm Jenkins had a great game covering Brown the majority of the time. If not for Jenkins, Brown might have finished with twice as many yards and receptions.
Carson Wentz is For Real
The main problem for the Steelers was the lack of pass rush generated by the defensive line. Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt have been solid so far this year when it comes to generating pressure, but they were kept at bay by the Eagles offensive line. Wentz was able to stand in the pocket and read zone coverage all game long, and he made even bigger plays when he was forced out of the pocket. Wentz did an excellent job of keeping his poise and taking what the defense gave him. Darren Sproles made the biggest impact for the Eagles, catching multiple passes out of the backfield, including a highlight-reel 73-yard receiving touchdown.
Moving forward, Steelers fans should stay calm. The return of Bell will make a huge impact on the Steelers offense. With Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell all on the field at the same time, opposing defenses won’t know who to focus on. Not to mention the other playmakers on the Steelers offense like Williams, Coates and tight-end Jesse James. However, the Steelers may want to blitz more in the future. Sitting back in zone and relying on pressure from lineman worked in the first two games, but it clearly doesn’t work against a quarterback like Wentz who can scan the field and read the defense. The Eagles likely have their franchise quarterback moving forward with Wentz, as well as a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick that they received from the Minnesota Vikings in the Sam Bradford trade.