I can’t help but think back to the last time these two Pennsylvania teams met back in 2016. The Eagles were 2-0 heading into a Week 3 game against a Steelers team that was also undefeated. Pittsburgh entered the tilt as 3.5-point favorites but a rookie Carson Wentz led the Birds to a total blowout victory, 34 to 3. It was quite an exciting day at the Linc as the Eagles advanced to 8-0 at home against their Keystone State competitors dating back to 1966. Of course, this year’s game will take place at Heinz Field, where the Eagles haven’t experienced as much success. They’ve never won in that building and they’re just 2-5 in their last seven trips heading west on the PA Turnpike.
Four years is a lot of time for things to change; many things have for both of these teams. And, yet, there are still a number of constants. The Eagles’ and Steelers’ head coach and quarterback combinations, for example, have remained static. Pittsburgh’s duo of Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger has been in place since 2007. The Steelers haven’t had a single losing season in that stretch and they’ve won double-digit games in eight out of 13 years.
This feat is no doubt impressive. Things easily could’ve gone badly for the 2019 Steelers when they lost Big Ben to a season-ending injury and started 0-3. But despite the fact they were down to starting their third-string undrafted rookie free agent quarterback at certain points, the Steelers still managed to rally to an 8-8 record. An offense that ranked dead last in DVOA was heavily assisted by a Pittsburgh defense that ranked third best.
The Steelers are clearly counting on the offense to rebound this year with Roethlisberger’s return. It remains to be seen just how effective the 38-year-old passer will be as he comes off a significant elbow injury. Even if he’s not in peak form, he should still be a superior option to Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges.
Defensive performance isn’t as likely to carry over on an annual basis but the Steelers do have a lot of talent on that side of the ball. All-Pro edge rusher T.J. Watt is coming off a 14.5-sack season after previously posting 13 in 2018. Minkah Fitzpatrick logged five interceptions and a forced fumble despite only joining the team while the season was on-going.
The Steelers’ ceiling obviously rides on Big Ben’s status but they’re still going to be a quality opponent even if they’re at their floor. The Eagles are going to have to turn in a pretty strong performance to leave the Steel City with a win.
Will the Eagles beat the Steelers?
This poll is closed
Read on for more Steelers insight from our SB Nation colleagues over at Behind The Steel Curtain.
Notable free agency additions: TE Eric Ebron, FB Derek Watt, OL Stefen Wisniewski, DT Chris Wormley (trade from BAL)
Over/under 10 wins? Over. Ben Roethlisberger alone is worth at least two more wins, plus the Steelers have the second easiest schedule in the NFL.
Rookie I’m most excited about: Chase Claypool. The Steelers will barely rely on rookies in 2020, so he is the most likely to get some playing time.
Best position battle heading into training camp: Right tackle. With Matt Feiler moving back to guard to begin training camp, it will be between Zach Banner and Chuks Okorafor for the right tackle position, although it’s not beyond the realm of possibility Feiler ends up back at tackle if one of the Steelers guards steps up during camp.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp: Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow. So much of the Steeler season falls on the health of Roethlisberger and his return from surgery.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: Depth at ILB and Safety. While the Steelers defensive unit is almost completely intact from 2019, the depth at a couple key positions is concerning. Although players have a lot of potential, many are highly unproven.
Notable injuries heading into training camp: Since Roethlisberger‘s elbow was already mentioned, the other significant injury is Stephon Tuitt returning after missing 10 games with an injured pectoral.