2016 Gameday 3: Philadelphia Eagles

Baberaham Lincoln Vampire Hunter Field
TV: CBS (map)
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

After last week’s emotional ride over the hated Cincinnati Bengals, it could be easy to lay off the gas pedal heading in to a Week 3 road game against an NFC opponent. We only see the Eagles once every four years (except in meaningless preseason games) so it can be difficult to generate much dislike for them. But let’s pause for a minute. This is Philadelphia we’re talking about. The Steelers are heading into a stadium to play in front of the same people that root for the Flyers. Just because they’re wearing Waste Management green and not Prison orange does not make these people any different. They are assholes. Think about how you feel when the Pens travel to Philadelphia. Good. Now you’re ready for Sunday.

What to Watch For


1. City of Horrors

In addition to being a terrible city in general, it has been an awful place for Pittsburgh teams to play. The Pirates have not won a series in Philadelphia in over three years. The Penguins are 1-4 in their last 5 games in Philadelphia. On top of all that, the Steelers have lost their last 8 games in Philadelphia dating back to 1965. The last time the Steelers visited Philadelphia was also the last time the Steelers started a season 2-0 and Ben got sacked 8 times and the Steelers lost 15-6.

2. The Wide Nine

The Steelers have traditionally fared poorly against teams that run a “Wide 9” defense. Teams like the Eagles and Titans have dominated the Steelers up front. The philosophy of the Wide 9 is for the defensive ends in a 4-3 to line up outside of the tackles (in the “9” gap) which gives them a faster angle to get around the corner to the quarterback. This allows the Eagles defensive ends to essentially line up in a track stance and take off like sprinters to try to beat the offensive tackle to the edge. The Eagles have four players that they will rotate in on the outside. Brandon Graham has 2 sacks this season and Connor Barwin came to Philadelphia on a big free agent deal a few years ago. Vinny Curry spent last week living in the Bears backfield and Marcus Smith is a former first round pick.

The best way to counteract the Wide 9 is with a strong inside running game that forces the defensive line to hold in their gaps rather than just rushing upfield. In the mid-2000s the philosophy of Wide 9 teams was essentially “play the run on the way to the quarterback” which can either be extremely effective or extremely ineffective. The Eagles have one of the best interior linemen in the league in Fletcher Cox. Watching the Steelers interior linemen battle Cox all game will be a heck of a showdown.

3. BEN-sylvania

The Eagles and Philadelphia media are so attention-starved that any time a quarterback appears to be a halfway decent player, they are ready to anoint him as the next star of the league. Michael Vick was supposed to light the world on fire with a “Dream Team” in Philadelphia but he was never even the best running quarterback in the state. Nick Foles? LOLOL. Now, rookie Carson Wentz has won all of two NFL games against the Browns and the Bears (who would both be battling the relegation line if the NFL was like the EPL) and they’re ready to anoint him as the “next Ben Roethlisberger.” Some Philadelphia institutions are even selling “Wentz-lvania” shirts. Clever. But let’s not forget which quarterback in this state has won Super Bowls. Ben Roethlisberger is at the top of his game right now. The Eagles have a relatively weak secondary that Ben should be able to exploit. With Leodis McKelvin injured, Nolan Carroll is Philly’s top corner. Which brings me to….

4. Business is BOOMIN’

Antonio Brown had a rare down week last week where he was held under 40 yards. The weather certainly had an impact on the game and the Bengals did everything they could to take Brown out of the game. This week, Brown gets to face one of the worst group of corners in the league. Nolan Carroll is flat out terrible and Brown should be able to run circles around him. With McKelvin out, the only other corners on the Eagles roster are Ron Brooks and rookie 7th rounder Jalen Mills. This should also open things up for the other receivers, too. Markus Wheaton will return this week and Ben has shown a willingness to take shots deep to Sammie Coates. If the offensive line can hold their own against the Eagles pass rush, this could be a monster week for the wide receivers.

5. Pass Rush

The Steelers have only recorded one sack this season, which was Arthur Moats tackling a scrambling Andy Dalton at the line of scrimmage for no gain. By the book, the technically counts as a sack, so we do have one. Carson Wentz has been sacked four times through two games but has not yet committed a turnover. Last season, Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt led the team in sacks and both draw favorable matchups this week. The strength of the Eagles line is in their tackles (Jason Peters and Lane Johnson). This could mean another unproductive game from the Steelers outside linebackers, but the interior linemen should be able to feast if they get one-on-one matchups with any of the Eagles guards or center. While the Steelers haven’t produced many sacks this season, Heyward and Tuitt have been able to get pressure which has forced opposing quarterbacks off their spot and to make bad throws. The Steelers had a number of opportunities for interceptions against the Bengals that they did not catch. If Wentz gives them chances this week the secondary will need to come through.

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