This weekend the Eagles host that Pennsylvania team with all those rings... The Steelers will be playing their first regular season game at Lincoln Financial Field and will be seeking their first road win against the Eagles in their last 7 tries. Surprisingly, the Eagles hold a significant head to head historical advantage(46-27-3) against their more successful cross state pals.
Bad Matchup for the Birds?
On offense, it's no secret what Pittsburgh will try to do... They'll try to establish the run early and often leaning heavily on their big offensive line and Willie Parker. The good news is that the Eagles have been very stout against the run not just last year but so far this year as well. In the first two weeks the Eagles D has held pro bowlers Steven Jackson and Marion Barber to 40 and 63 yards rushing respectively.
However... one area where the Eagles defense has been particularly week is one that the Steelers happen to be very strong in. Tight End. Why the struggles? Quintin Mikell seems to think it's because they've faced so many good TEs.
"When you look at our schedule, it seems like every week we're facing a great tight end, and he's another one," Eagles safety Quintin Mikell said. "I'm pretty sure they're going to try to work him in there, seeing what happened last week, and we've got to be ready for that."
Miller is not as big a name as Jason Witten, but he certainly isn't flying under Brian Dawkins' radar
"It's real important that we take care of that, because Heath Miller is one of the best tight ends in the league," Brian Dawkins said. "I think because the Steelers run the ball so much and they throw it down the field, too, that people don't realize how good he is. But when he gets his chances, he makes some big plays."
The Eagles linebacking corps, who looked so good against the Rams, struggled against the Cowboys especially in coverage. Chris Gocong is using that as motivation for this week.
Any time you have a game in which you lose like that or give up 41 points, you're always looking forward to a little redemption," Gocong said. "I think we'll be playing with a chip on our shoulders. It's just pride. We play to win, but we're playing to dominate."
Stewart Bradley thinks the Eagles linebackers are a good match for the Steelers will try to do on offense.
"You see different philosophies and you have to adjust," Bradley said. "Pittsburgh's mentality is to run the ball. Well, one of our main focuses last week was to stop the run, and we did a pretty good job of that. It's one of our big goals this week, too. We'll try to get our hands on them early."
Injuries/Offensive Line woes
As for the Eagles offense, part of the news this week will be who can play and who can't. Pro Bowler Shawn Andrews has been listed as questionable after leaving Monday Night's game with back spasms. Although he is reportedly improving, Reuben Frank thinks he unlikely to play this weekend. Starting in his place would be Max Jean Gilles. Elsewhere along the offensive line, center Jamal Jackson missed practice twice this week for what the team is calling "personal reasons." He is expected to play on Sunday.
Good news on the injury front is that WR Reggie Brown says he's "ready to go", but with Desean Jackson putting up big numbers at Reggie's position in his absence what kind of role will Reggie have?
"I don't know," Brown said. "My role is to go out there and make plays whenever plays are needed. It's like a jack-in-the-box. Crank it up and see what comes out."
The general thought is that Reggie should end up starting opposite Jackson in the role normally filled by Kevin Curtis.
This is a game of two very contrasting offensive philsophies. The Eagles are heavy pass first and the Steelers are heavy run first. Just to underscore the point, Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 36 passes in two games this year.... Donovan McNabb threw 37 passes last week.
By the way, doesn't it kind of look like Big Ben and Donovan are about to smooch in the pic I posted at the top? Odd shot there...