This Sunday, Pennsylvania becomes a battleground state as the Eagles host the Steelers for the first time at Lincoln Financial Field. To catch up on all things Steelers I exchanged some questions with Blitzburgh from the great Steelers blog Behind the Steel Curtain.
Inevitably we'll hear the phrases "battle for PA" and cross state rivals" a whole bunch this weekend... But do Steeler fans see the Eagles as any type of rivals?
I may not be the best person to ask that question, as I actually am quite fond of the Eagles. Having gone to college in Philly, I followed them fairly closely and grew a healthy amount of respect for what Andy Reid has been able to accomplish. For the real old school fans, the teams' intertwined history make it hard to share the same kind of animosity that they may feel with teams like the Ravens, or Cowboys
The big story for this game injury-wise is probably the shoulder of Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers say it's a sprain. How do you think it affected him against the Browns and will it be a factor Sunday?
Well, it's hard to say exactly how it affected him this past Sunday against Cleveland. He did, afterall, complete 60+% of his passes in swirling winds, including a few deep balls that were on a rope. As John Madden said during the telecast, 'he's a gamer.' Oh so true. At 6'5" and 230+ pounds, Roethlisberger is an incredibly imposing and versatile athlete. Your guess is as good as mine, but I suspect he'll play and be just fine out there. Above all else, the Eagles would be well served pressuring him and forcing him to try to take matters into his own hands avoiding pressure and making plays outside the pocket.
The Eagles play against run has been arguably been the strength of the defense for a year now. The two first round DTs in the center(Bunkley,Patterson) have been given a lot of credit for that. The Steelers love to and are very successful running straight up the gut. Something's gotta give here. How do you see that matchup playing out?
I'm not that familiar with the Eagles' interior defensive lineman, but I did notice the early success the team has enjoyed stopping the run. I imagine we'll pull a guard on multiple occassions and try to let Parker make the first guy miss near or off tackle, and then just hope Parker can muster something close to 4 yards per carry up the gut rather than the 2-3 yards per attempt that Steelers fans were frustratingly subjected to all too often last year. It might also be worth nothing that Rashard Mendenhall did not carry the ball in Week 2 against Cleveland. My guess is we'll see him take some of the workload off of Philly this week. I'll finish by saying that the top three areas of concern for Steelers fans heading into this season were 1) the offensive line 2) special teams and 3) the ability to close out games and drives with the running game in short-yardage situations. So far, through two games, we've been great in all three phases. But, our competition wasn't that stiff. We all thought these prize fights with the NFC East teams would be slugfests. It's now time to see if we're ready to exchange blows in the trenches.
Is there a guy on the Eagles offense that you think presents a bad matchup for the Steelers D.
Well, I'm not sure anybody matches up well with Brian Westbrook. He's just a nightmare to defend. If the Eagles can get him matched up with either one of our older LBs (Larry Foote or James Farrior), we could get loose. I wouldn't put it past Desean Jackson to break a big play, but his chances may be greater on special teams than as a WR. Other than that, my biggest fear is Donovan McNabb. He seems on his game, and after last week's heartbreaking loss, I'd imagine McNabb will have everybody working hard on the practice field and in the film room this week. At 1-1, this is a big game for the Eagles, and McNabb's track record in big regular season games has been outstanding for quite some time now.
Finally, there has been some concerns about the Steelers special teams coming into this year. How have those units looked so far?
So far so good on special teams. It was definitely a weak link last year. How bad was the tackling at times? Take a look for yourself.
Here's hoping the special teams hold up for another week! Enjoy the game guys and gals.
Thanks once again to Blitzburgh from the fine Steelers blog Behind the Steel Curtain.