The Steelers scored no rushing touchdowns. The Steelers scored no passing touchdowns. The Steelers only got one rushing 1st down in the entire game. Willie Parker was held to 20 yards rushing. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 8 times (6 times in the 2nd quarter), and was held to 131 total passing yards. Score: Eagles 15, Steelers 6. Any questions?
I was tempted to end my post-game analysis right there, but that would be taking the easy way out. Writing this report feels just like it felt to watch the Steelers game today; painful.
I tried to think of headlines for this article, but everything that I thought of seemed too negative. “Steelers get their ***es kicked” was the most accurate headline I could think of, but it just sounded…..inappropriate. So I stuck with “Steelers vs. Eagles: Post-Game Analysis” as my headline.
Going into the game, I was expecting a physical contest of titanic proportions between two evenly matched gladiators. What I actually watched looked more like a street fight between Richard Simmons and Kimbo Slice. And unfortunately, the Steelers weren’t Kimbo Slice.
The Eagles dominated the Steelers in all facets of the game. Let’s take a look at each of them.
The Eagles offense seemed to be able to move the ball at will, until Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook (the Eagles’ two best offensive players) both suffered injuries. McNabb was a perfect 15/15 passing before throwing his first incomplete pass with just over 2 minutes remaining in the 1st half. Westbrook injured his ankle early in the 1st quarter, and rushed for only 12 total yards before leaving the game for good.
In my pre-game analysis, I said that the Steelers’ defense needed to do two things; contain Westbrook and pressure McNabb. If they weren’t able to do these two things, the steelers were in for a long day. The early injury to Westbrook took care of my first concern. Westbrook was rendered a non-factor. And while McNabb was unstoppable in the 1st half, Dick LeBeau and the Steelers’ defense made adjustments at half-time, and made life difficult for the Eagles the rest of the way. Despite giving up 13 points (two points came on a safety and can’t be charged to the Steelers’ “D”), the Steelers’ Defense played a good game, and they were the only reason that the final score wasn’t 59-3 (although it certainly felt like that was the score).
In particular, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons looked good. While neither recorded more than 2 tackles, they both provided good pressure on McNabb. Woodley completely over-powered Eagles tackle John Runyan on his sack of Donovan McNabb. While Timmons did not start for the Steelers, it was very noticeable when Timmons came into the game. He provided key pressure on McNabb at the end of the 1st half that changed the tempo of the game, and ended McNabb’s perfect passing streak.
James Farrior led the team in tackles (with 7 solo tackles), and also forced a fumble. Larry Foote also recorded 1.5 sacks on McNabb.
Troy Polamalu had another good game, and recorded his 3rd interception in as many games. Cornerback Bryant McFadden also recorded an interception (his 2nd in the past 2 games).
Despite a rough 1st half, the Steelers’ defense looked good, and they have no reason to hang their heads.
The Steelers’ offense was an entirely different matter. The offense stunk. There’s no other way to put it.
Was it just me, or did it seem like the referees were allowing the Eagles to rush 15 defensive linemen on each play? How else do you explain the constant pressure on Ben Roethlisberger? Even when the Steelers went to their “max protection” formations, they still couldn’t stop the Eagles’ rush. Usain Bolt couldn’t have gotten to Big Ben faster than the Eagles linemen were.
In total, the Offensive Line gave up 9 sacks. That’s right, 9! Eight sacks on Roethlisberger, and one of Byron Leftwich. At one point, the Eagles’ Defense recorded 5 sacks in 6 plays. I’ve seldom seen a defensive line dominate an offensive line so completely. Kendall Simmons was a revolving door. Willie Colon played like a matador. And Chris Kemoeatu showed that he is much better at run blocking than he is at pass blocking.
I’m not one to call for coaches’ heads, but Steelers Offensive Line Coach Larry Zierlein should hide his face in shame. He had no clue how to stop the Eagles’ rush. He was like a 3rd grader taking a trigonometry exam; completely baffled. While Dick LeBeau made adjustments at half-time, Zierlein and Steelers Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians apparently made none. The offensive line’s performance was truly an embarrassment.
Beyond the constant pressure that he was getting from the Eagles defense, Ben Roethlisberger didn’t look like himself. His passes weren’t accurate, and he looked rattled. Perhaps his shoulder was hurting worse than he let on. In fact, the only time the Steelers were able to establish a viable passing game was when Byron Leftwich came on in relief after Roethlisberger injured his hand.
To make matters worse, the Steelers offense was never able to establish the running game. The Eagles came into the game with the NFL’s #1 ranked defense against the run. I said in my pre-game analysis that the match-up of Willie Parker vs. the Eagles Defense would determine the game. Unfortunately, my prediction proved to be true.
Willie Parker was never able to get the running game going. He ended up with only 20 yards rushing on 13 carries. But even that number is deceiving. Parker got 8 yards on one play. If you eliminate that play, Parker got only 12 yards on his remaining 12 carries. That’s 1 yard per carry. Even I could do that.
On a positive note (there weren’t many), did anyone else notice Jeff Reed’s 53 yard field goal that looked like it would have been good from 73 yards? That guy has got to be one of the best field goal kickers in the league. He is consistently accurate, even in the mud bowl called Heinz Field. Not many kickers could do that.
The Eagles’ punter actually outplayed the Steelers. Need I say more?
History was not on our side going into this game. The Steelers had not beaten the Eagles in Philadelphia since 1965. That’s 43 years. Philadelphia is one of the toughest places in the NFL for any visiting team to play. Perhaps a loss was inevitable.
What bothers me is the way we lost. The Eagles were more physical than the Steelers. They played “Steeler football” better than the Steelers did. That can’t happen.
It’s probably going to be a long, quiet ride back to Pittsburgh. But the team can’t dwell on this. They have to get back on the practice field and fix these problems. They play the Baltimore Ravens next week on Monday Night Football. I’m sure the Ravens are going to use today’s game as a blueprint for how to beat the Steelers.