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Adam's Mailbag: Fletcher Cox & Co. will need to step up on Sunday

The Steelers' offensive line could prove hard to crack in Week 3.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Hey! Y'all gave me a bunch of good questions again this week. I enjoy this. Here are my answers.

Some long answers

@girlnamedkelly: what unit vs Steelers will be tested the most?

The easy answer is the secondary, but the one I’m thinking is the defensive line. In the first two games of the year, Fletcher Cox & Co. went up against serviceable, but certainly not exceptional, offensive lines.

The Steelers have a very good offensive line.

Even without their star running back, the Steelers rank sixth in the league in team rushing, averaging 135 yards per game. 33-year-old DeAngelo Williams has 41 more yards than any other running back in the league, and has picked up a league-high 13 first downs on the ground.

Here’s just one example of the kinds of holes they can open up for Williams:


Center Maurkice Pouncey, one of the best centers in the league when he’s healthy, seals off his man and gives Williams plenty of space to pick up nine yards. It’s nothing flashy. It’s just an offensive line doing its job very well. That is a gigantic hole.

The Steelers and Williams can run outside, too. I loved this play from last week’s win over the Bengals:


Guard David DeCastro has a monster pull here, getting out ahead of Williams and accounting for two different blocks, while Pouncey seals his man off perfectly and Williams stretches the play around the end for a seven-yard gain. Again, nothing flashy. Just really good execution.

The Steelers, historically a run-loving offense, have combined their enthusiasm for the ground game with an impressive passing game, and the offensive line has played a big part in that as well.

For years, a suspect offensive line subjected Roethlisberger to far too many sacks. His lowest tally ever for a season was 20 sacks — last year, when he only played 12 games. His lowest mark in a season with at least 15 games played came two years ago, when he was sacked 33 times, or two per game.

It’s no surprise two of his least painful years have come in the past two seasons, as this offensive line has grown and strengthened. And this year he’s only been sacked twice in the first two weeks of the year, which, while not sustainable, would of course be his best mark ever.

Here’s one example of what can happen when the offensive line keeps Roethlisberger clean in the pocket:


That’s a problem. It’s only a four-man rush, but Roethlisberger basically doesn’t have to move at all after his drop. When he gets that much time behind that line, it’s money in the bank downfield.

The Eagles’ defensive line will have their hands full.

@the_aranda: if the eagles pull off a victory against the steelers where do you think that puts them overall in the league?

If the Eagles beat the Steelers, this season will instantly transform from a rebuilding season into a contending season. Sure, 2-0 is nice, but two wins against the Bears and the Browns don’t exactly mean the Eagles are contenders for anything other than their woeful division.

But if they beat a team like the Steelers — or, frankly, even hang with them into the final two minutes before eventually losing — the narrative of Carson Wentz’s rookie season would change entirely.

Right now, the Steelers are one of the three or four best teams in the league, along with the Patriots, the Panthers, and the Cardinals. They pack an insanely potent offense, a solid defense, and pedigree for days.

To beat the Steelers would unlock a handful of other potential wins this season, games that could have otherwise been written off as guaranteed losses.

Let’s say the Eagles beat the Steelers. They’re 3-0, and they head into the bye feeling like world-beaters. Teams, historically, are pretty successful coming off their bye weeks. Andy Reid went 10-4 after bye weeks; Chip Kelly, surprisingly, went just 1-2. (One of the worst post-bye week records ever? Mike Holmgren in Seattle, at 1-10!)

So, if the Eagles win this Sunday, I’ll give them a win over the Lions after the bye week. They’ll be 4-0. I’ll give them a win over Washington, too, because I don’t think Kirk Cousins is very good, and a win over the Vikings because Adrian Peterson is out for the year. That puts the Eagles at (gasp!) 6-0.

I think the Cowboys could give the Eagles their first loss of the year, just because the history between these two teams means anything can happen. They’ll beat the Giants, lose to the Falcons, and lose to the Seahawks. That’s 7-3.

Then, unless something changes in Milwaukee, the Eagles can beat the Packers if they can beat the Steelers. They can beat the Bengals, too, but they might lose that one. Tough back-to-back games. 8-4.

Then they beat Washington again, and Baltimore, lose to the Giants in Week 16 because the Eagles are gonna Eaglea, and beat the Cowboys in Week 17. 11-5.

If the Eagles beat the Steelers on Sunday, I think all of that is possible.

Because, unlike Chip Kelly, I absolutely deal in hypotheticals.


Some quick hitters

@moleloco: will da eagles make da playoffs?


@jeff_schram: When do you think Treggs makes his debut?

Week 12.

@joroyo92: How many trey burton receiving yards this year?


@dacostello1: over/under...Eagles scoring 29 game 3…??


@jstillman1960: Eagles thin at CB.  Chances that CJ Smith gets placed on regular roster?

60-40, in favor.


Some silly stuff

@shamus_clancy: odds DeSean signs here in the offseason in a move that mutually spites Chip between Howie and DeSean?

OMG SHAMUS. Howie’s on a roll right now; I’d be lying if I said there was a zero percent chance this could happen. Kirk Cousins is going to be chased out of D.C. and Washington will once again be abjectly aimless, and DeSean’s dead cap hit in 2017 is only $1.25 million. The entire year is voidable, in fact. I’d say there is a non zero chance, mainly because I want it so badly to happen.

@fink_bomb: is it normal to have day long erections after watching Wentz play or should I see a doctor?

Very normal, your doctor probably has one too.

@brandongowton: How dare you?

I still don’t know what I did to deserve this tweet.

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