KEYS TO THE GAME
The Philadelphia Eagles end the winless streak but now they have to face arguably the best defense in football, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Eagles (1-2-1) are flying high into Heinz Field after knocking off the defending NFC Champions as well as claiming 1st place in the NFC East. The Steelers (3-0) haven’t had much competition as their opponents have a combined 1-11 record so far this season. The black and yellow come into Sunday as 7 point favorites and will allow 5500 fans in the stands. What are the keys to the game?
1. Steelers OLB/Defensive Line vs the Eagles Offensive Line
Jordan Mailata played good in his NFL debut Sunday night starting at left tackle and was one of the keys to last weeks game. I was really impressed as he went one on one against multiple 49er defenders with different fronts and wasn’t really given any help. Lane Johnson is playing hurt but Jack Driscoll has been adequate when needed this season.
Bud Dupree and the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line are a totally different animal. They don’t move there DE/OLB around as far as sides of the field so Dupree will be the primary matchup on the EDGE. They love to run stunts and may mix in some 4-3 as well. The Steelers lead the league in quarterback pressures per drop back at 46.5% of the time. That means the quarterback is under pressure almost half the game every drop back. They also blitz 51.2% of the time and are second in the NFL in sacks with 15. On the other side, we have TJ Watt (missed practice Thursday) who is the team leader with 3.5 sacks. Lane should be able to handle him but Jack Driscoll would be a questions mark. Jordan Mailata didn’t need help last week but I think he is going to need a bunch against Dupree.
Inside the Steelers defensive line, we have All-Pro Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward. He had 9 sacks in 2019 earning Pro-Bowl honors as well. Stephon Tuitt who already has 2 sacks this season is no one to sleep on either. The Eagles offensive line has their work cut out for them and I am sure the Steelers are chomping at the bit.
2. Eagles Defensive Line vs the Steeler Offensive Line
So I said the Steelers were second in the league in sacks. Guess who leads the league in sacks? Yeah that is right, its the Philadelphia Eagles with 17 yet only blitzing 23.2 % of the time. 13 of those have come in the last two weeks. Since Schwartz decided to start Josh Sweat over Barnett, a fire has lit under Barnett which in turn sparked the entire defensive line. Steelers right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor is a third round pick who lost his job to Zach Banner in training camp. He regained it when Banner tore his ACL so this could be a weakness to exploit. The Eagles need to win this matchup regardless of who they rotate over to that defensive end spot. It will be Brandon Graham for the most part but hopefully they continue to mix in Genard Avery who played very well last week.
3. Protect the Football
The Eagles offense cannot afford to give this Steelers team any more opportunities being carless with the football. Carson Wentz, who has been protecting the ball better and throwing the ball away a lot more. He needs to keep that going and take what the defense gives him. I love that he is using his legs again and you can definitely see him coming to life. Doug needs to get away from the trick plays too especially when the offense is in a flow. It almost cost them last week! I think if the Eagles have 0 turnovers on Sunday they win the football game.
4. Carson Wentz Brain vs Defensive Formations
The Steelers like to confuse quarterbacks with their linebackers and defensive backs by moving them around all over the formation. They could have a safety or corner in the slot who then sprints to the middle of the field coverage or come on a blitz. You really have no clue where they are coming from or if they are staying home. One of the reasons I fell in love with Carson Wentz was his IQ on the football field. Carson needs to recognize and audible into different plays to outsmart the Steelers on Sunday. This is one of the more important keys to the game.
The Steelers haven’t beaten any good teams nor have they faced any good offenses. The Eagles will be without Desean Jackson and the Steelers are outstanding against the #1 tight end. The Eagles offensive line is going to have issues against this front seven but I am hoping they are able to minimize the sacks and stop the turnovers. I feel like this will be a lower scoring with both defensive lines dictating the game. The Eagles defensive line has been just as scary as the Steelers as of late. Big Ben won’t be ready for the pressure and I think he will be the guy turning the ball over. Gut feeling we see a Wentz to Miles Sanders touchdown similar to this Darren Sproles touchdown the last time the Eagles faced the Steelers. Eagles will pull this one out late in the 4th quarter.
Eagles 23 – Steelers 20
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