Steelers vs. Eagles Preview: Pittsburgh May Not Be Pushover Philly Is Expecting

Desperate times call for desperate measures … or season-defining wins.

If the Pittsburgh Steelers actually hope to have a season, they might want to pull out one of those. Already reeling at 1-2 and showing all the signs of a one-dimensional offense and aging defense that can make any NFL squad Sunday roadkill for an opponent, they need a victory today. Bad.

It just so happens they may have the perfect opponent to pull it off. Oh sure, the Philadelphia Eagles come to town sporting a 3-1 record, a potentially dynamic offense and an improved defense. But how good are they really?

Thanks to an error-free effort last week, they “only” have 12 turnovers this season. Their three wins have come by a combined four points. They’re actually minus-17 on point differential for the season, courtesy of a 27-6 beatdown in the desert two weeks ago against Arizona.

In short, are they capable of taking care of business … against an opponent that may not be as weak as its record would indicate?

Perhaps these keys can enlighten:

The Eagles’ commitment to the ground game – In beating the Giants, the Birds went against the grain form their norm under Andy Reid by running the ball more than passing. It worked. Though the offensive fireworks were missing, they managed to grind out a 19-17 victory with underutilized LeSean McCoy getting 23 carries for 123 yards. Thing is, it’s not so much if the Eagles can repeat such an effort, it’s whether Reid is willing to attempt an encore, especially if Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, arguably the best in the game at the moment, directs a couple of early scoring drives.

Rashard Mendenhall’s return – Pittsburgh has struggled. There is no way to deny that. Losing the opener in Denver is no disgrace, especially with a bounceback win against the Jets a week later. But falling at Oakland two weeks ago pretty much confirmed that the Steelers just cannot run the ball at all. Their two main ballcarriers thus far – Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer – have combined for just 142 yards on 56 carries. But here’s the rub, Mendenhall is expected back for this one. Add some semblance of a rushing attack to Roethlisberger and suddenly this offense takes on a whole new dynamic.

Getting to the opposing quarterback – Neither the Steelers nor the Eagles have been very successful with applying pressure in 2012. Pittsburgh has just five sacks in three games and Philly seven in four. That’s not exactly striking fear in the opposition. The one difference is, Philly may need to get some heat on Roethlisberger just to keep him in check. But he’s likely to make a big play just the same, and not commit a turnover. Conversely, Michael Vick has shown a propensity for coughing up the pigskin, so if the Steelers can get to him …

EXTRA POINTS

Redman has the Steelers’ lone rushing TD all season. Safety Ryan Clark has the team’s lone interception … CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has three picks alone for the Birds, while safety Kurt Coleman has two … Coleman also leads in Philly in tackles with 27, but has received some criticism for being too eager to come up in run support and leaving himself vulnerable in pass coverage … Vick has throw for four TDs and six INTs. Roethlisberger has eight TDs to just one pick … The game features two of the game’s better receiving TEs in Pittsburgh’s Heather Miller (four TDs) and the Eagles’ Brent Celek (18 catches, 315 yards).

Prediction: Steelers, 27-24.

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