Bob Brookover has an ominous post
over on Birds' Eye View. Check it out, the Eagles are 0-13 since 1997 against AFC playoff teams. For the most part, the games haven't even been close. Not a great way to start off a preview of the Eagles/Steelers game, but we work with what we've got.
First, the bad news.
It looks like Shawn Andrews is not going to be available for the game. He's missed practice all week with back spasms.
The good news is Reggie Brown has been upgraded to probable and should see action in the game. After the jump, we'll take a closer look at the Steelers and point out some keys to the game.
The Steelers come into the Linc at 2-0. Let's take a look at their first two games and see how they won.Game 1: Houston 17 @ Pittsburgh 38
Game 2: Pittsburgh 10 @ Cleveland 6
- Roethlisberger only threw for 137 yards, but he was 13/14 on the game and they really didn't need him to air it out.
- Willie Parker rushed for 138 yards on 25 carries and scored 3 touchdowns.
- The Steelers D held the Texans to 75 rushing yards on 20 carries, forced 3 turnovers and had 5 sacks.
- The game was a blowout heading into the fourth. The Texans scored 14 in the fourth to make the final score look a little better.
- The low total score is probably more a result of the weather than stifling defense.
- Roethlisberger was 13/20 for 179 yards and 1 TD.
- Willie Parker was the star of the game, again. He finished with 105 yards on 28 carries.
- On defense, the Steelers forced 2 turnovers, tallied 2 sacks and held the Browns to 2.1 yards/carry.
What can we glean from these two games? Probably not a whole lot. Houston is a bad team and Pittsburgh put them away easily. Cleveland is probably a decent team, but the weather played a huge role in that game. The Steelers seem to be good against the run, they play an aggressive, blitzing 3-4. They get pressure on the QB and they force turnovers. They've shown a committment to the run with Willie Parker, and he's been successful. On the season he's averaging 4.6 yards/carry. According to Behind the Steel Curtain, the majority of his carries
come off the right guard, right at the teeth of the defense.
Heading into this game, Roethlisberger is listed as probable
, despite some kind of shoulder issue. There was a report earlier in the week that his shoulder was seriously injured, but the Steelers denied it and it looks like Big Ben will play. Byron Leftwich is his backup, just in case.
Here are my keys:Offense
- Max Jean-Gilles needs to be average. He isn't going to step in and give the Eagles what Shawn Andrews does, he's not that good. Let's put it this way, if we don't hear his name at all during the game, he will have done his job. My biggest concern is that he'll either get torched by the blitz, or he's going to get whistled for all kinds of penalties. Just don't do anything to kill the team MJG, that's all we ask.
- Account For Polamalu. The long-haired safety is the most disruptive force on the Steelers' defensive squad. He'll blitz, he'll play center field and go for picks, he'll cheat up to stop the run. If he blitzes, someone absolutely has to pick him up. If he's in coverage, don't try to force the ball into his area.
- McNabb and receivers on the same page. When the Steelers bring the blitz, McNabb and the young receivers need to make appropriate adjustments to beat it. This could be an issue with DeSean. Will he see the same thing McNabb does when he's the hot receiver? He needs to. Reggie Brown's return may help in this regard.
- Finally, this holds true most weeks. If Westbrook outgains Parker on the ground, the Eagles will win.
- Bring back the blitz. If Roethlisberger's shoulder really is hurting, make him prove he can throw the deep ball. Asante can blanket Santonio Holmes 1 on 1. Sheldon can handle Hines Ward. Let those guys play on an island and bring the heat with Dawkins or Mikkel.
- Stewart Bradley. The Steelers love to run the ball right up the gut. Bradley needs to plug the holes at the line and stuff the running game. Something he's been doing very well up to this point.
- The Chip On Dawkins' Shoulder. Brian Dawkins was torched several times against Dallas. How did he react when questioned about his age? He was pissed. I don't know about you, but I'm thinking an angry Dawkins is a good sign for this secondary. We need him to make a classic Weapon X play, or three.
- Where's Trent? To put it kindly, Trent Cole has done jack so far this season. He's being pushed around at the line, he hasn't been able to use his speed and the pressure the front four are putting on opposing QBs is laughable. We need the guy who has 20.5 sacks over the past two seasons to reappear.
This is a game the Eagles can win. This is a game the Eagles should win. It's a short week, Andrews is out. There are excuses available, but this is the NFL, you have to overcome things like that. Monday night was the first test, this will be the second. A win on Sunday and everyone will be convinced that this team is for real.