Even though the Philadelphia Eagles may have lost their first two preseason games, that hardly means that they were not a significant challenge for the Pittsburgh Steelers, particularly when it comes to trying to stop their up-tempo offense.
And even though the third preseason game is supposed to be, by tradition, the ‘dress rehearsal’ for the regular season, it’s not necessarily the end of the world if the team falls flat on their face during that rehearsal.
The regular season isn’t over yet. The preseason isn’t even over yet. And I get the feeling that the starters will be finishing off the final preseason game by playing a bit longer than they normally would have because of the last game.
But I wouldn’t put too much stock in the team’s overall performance in the 31-21 loss, even if there were plenty of legitimate negatives to take away from it when it comes to individual struggles. The end results should at least be considered in some context.
For starters, the Steelers were playing on a shorter week than normal, last playing a week ago on Saturday and then playing on Thursday.
The preseason as it is involves very little actual game planning and preparing for specific opponents, and even less so when the team is coming off a short week.
While the third preseason game is supposed to involve a bit of opponent-specific planning, it pales in comparison to preparations for a regular season game, and the truncated turnover from one game to the next further complicated the situation.
But being asked to play an uncommon offense such as the one that the Eagles run under Chip Kelly, on a short week, with minimal preparation, was a difficult task.
It’s not necessarily that Kelly has his players doing things that nobody else does. He combines elements of plays in ways that nobody else does, and he does it faster than anybody else. Quite simply, the Steelers haven’t really had to defend against an offense like this.
We saw Steelers defenders getting fooled several times throughout the game by misdirection tactics employed by Nick Foles and the Eagles’ offense. The fake screen left only to throw the screen right is one play that comes to mind.
The tempo also seemed to get to some players, particularly Ryan Shazier, who sometimes didn’t seem like he knew where he was supposed to be. It’s no surprise his sophomore performance paled in comparison to his debut.
This isn’t necessarily an excuse for the performance the Steelers defense turned in two nights ago. Especially when it came to the second half when the starters allowed two touchdown drives to begin the third quarter to the Eagles’ backups.
Certainly, it will be seen as making excuses. Maybe it is. But really, what I’m trying to say is don’t overreact. Maybe the Steelers will go on to have another poor season, but it won’t be because they lost a preseason game to the Eagles.
After all, I don’t think we really learned anything about this team from that game that we didn’t already know was true, or at least was potentially true.