The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line is infamously known as one of the worst pass protecting units in the league. The Eagles defensive line is renown for its ability to pound opposing quarterbacks. Obviously everybody knew what was going to happen when the two units clashed in Pittsburgh - zero sacks.
The Eagles didn't take down Ben Roethlisberger. They didn't record a sack for the second straight game. Their Pro Bowl defensive ends (Trent Cole and Jason Babin) barely appeared on the stat sheet. Backup Darryl Tapp literally didn't appear on the stat sheet despite 23 defensive snaps.
It wasn't a stellar performance. Everybody noticed, which of course prompted an Andy Reid defense.
So what really happened? Here's the in-depth breakdown:
Trent Cole - 51
Jason Babin - 51
Darryl Tapp - 23
Brandon Graham - 19
Phillip Hunt - 6
Let's start with the backups before getting into the bigger issue, the lack of production from Cole against Steelers maligned left tackle Max Starks. Hunt made only a cameo, but with half his snaps coming on the final drive of the contest. Graham was probably the Eagles' most productive end despite playing just 19 snaps. He was in the backfield quickly and had two pressures late in the first half. That's two more than Tapp, who didn't have a standout snap on any of his 23 plays.
Cole didn't either in 21 snaps against the run. That's not the Trent Cole that Eagles fans have grown to love over the years. Cole's ability to dominate against the run and pass is actually what's made him their best all-around defensive end. Not on Sunday.
Babin, meanwhile, was a factor on three of 20 snaps against the run. He had seven standout snaps against the pass. Cole had just four. None resulted in a sack as the interior of the line (particularly Fletcher Cox and Derek Landri) had a rough afternoon.
Cole and Babin forced Roethlisberger to step up a handful of times and not once was there a penetrating defensive tackle there to finish the play.
Now on to Cole's claim of the Steelers max-protecting most of the afternoon. Starks received help from running backs and tight ends on nine of 30 passing plays against Cole, including on five of 10 in the second half. Babin faced a double-team on seven of 31 snaps. That's not exorbitant or unusual against the Eagles defensive ends.
The Steelers also used a lot of three-step drops and four times allowed an Eagles defensive end to rush up field quickly before hitting a tight end or running back in the flat on very productive pseudo-screens. It was a solid game plan against defensive ends they knew would be tough to handle straight-up for 30-40 pass rushing snaps.
It was a good job by the Steelers and a sub-par performance from some of the Eagles' defensive ends, particularly Cole. He's used to double teams and now has just 1.5 sacks and 14 tackles this season. There used to be games where Cole had eight or nine tackles. So far, not this year.
- The Eagles trouble on the offensive line doesn't appear to be physical. It's blitz recognition at the line of scrimmage. There were less than a handful of 1-on-1 matchups where they were beat or dominated in Pittsburgh. Left tackle Demetress Bell played a solid game.
- The Steelers blitzed on 20 of 37 called passes on Sunday. Vick went 11-of-16 passing for 133 yards and a touchdown. He was also sacked three times and lost a fumble.
- After analyzing the three Vick fumbles none were egregious but all could have been avoided. None came on blindside or helmet-on-football hits. Vick just needs to be stronger and maybe hold the ball a bit tighter to his body when anticipating a hit.
- Nnamdi Asomugha was one drop away from having a really bad afternoon in Pittsburgh. Five of the six passes in his direction or zone went for completions, with the only miss being a drop by Antonio Brown in the end zone. Asomugha was also flagged for a penalty, tying him with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for the team lead with four this season.
- Brandon Boykin ran very tentatively on his kickoff returns in Pittsburgh, failing to reach full speed to try and hit a hole. Boykin averaged 21.7 yards on three returns.
- The Eagles pounded the ball successfully three times in short-yardage situations, all to the right side of the line. That's encouraging news considering short-yardage running has often been an Achilles heel under Andy Reid.