Eagles Offense A Tough Task For Ill-Prepared Steelers Defense

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.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • chris ward

    Definitely was not a good performance, have to look at the tape and learn from their mistakes. A lot of work to be done for the Steelers until the real thing starts in about 2 weeks.

  • Burgh Ball

    This article sounds like a bunch of excuses… You need to look at the lost one on one battles – see the line of scrimmage – to see why we got spanked. If players aren’t winning at the line – they more than likely aren’t going to win the game and no excuses will excuse this pathetic performance. Go back and watch Cam Thomas, McLendon, etc.. getting knocked off the LOS – single blocked – tells most of what you need to know.

  • Jason

    I agree. Plus this defense has no discipline and hasn’t for a while. Just look at McCoy’s run where we had him stopped for a loss and he cuts back across the field and there’s 0 contain on the backside. Granted game planning could help this but it’s Lesean McCoy he lives off of these runs. This is why I’m so relieved Manziel isn’t starting week 1. The read option and play action bootlegs would have given our “exotic” defense fits all day.

  • NinjaMountie

    Good Article. I’ve been saying the same exact thing since the game. Too many fans wanting to take the knee jerk reaction that we are doomed, that Lebeau and Tomlin must go, that all our draft picks our busts. Seriously, it makes you see how spoiled of a fan base we have become…which is a good thing in a way, lol.

  • NinjaMountie

    You know, what you are calling excuses may actually be reasons. Funny thought, huh? Sometimes there are REASONS for why things happen, and sometimes those reasons can be addressed and fixed. The pace of the Eagles offense obviously had an impact on all of the players. You could see they were getting gassed, the younger/newer guys were getting confused. In other words, the offensive scheme of the Eagles was doing exactly what it is designed to do, especially against a team that hasn’t seen it or game planned for it.
    Now, I’m not saying your observations aren’t accurate. I’m just saying things aren’t as necessarily as doomy and gloomy as you may think. Still a whole season to go. We may well go 8-8 again, maybe worse. Then again we may do better. The point is you can’t tell from this game.

  • Burgh Ball

    Your reply sounds just like an excuse.. The point is we were losing one on one battles in the game along the LOS – this happened early in the game when they weren’t as you says “gassed” as well as in the middle of the game and the end. That’s the point – the NON-schematic things – one vs one.. disappointing and there is no excuse for it – You can make reasons (excuses) all you went – but the fact remains we got our butts kicked on the LOS all night.

  • AndyR34

    Ninja – your last paragraph is spot-on…this last game is only an indicator of the state of the team at this time…not where they will be thru most of the season. I think too many fans were expecting a much better team than last year. They may end up there, but are not yet any better, IMHO. I think bringing back Kiesel is clearly a sign that the DL is not improved at this point. I am gloomy about, but willing to be patient on JJ. How many years did it take Deebo? Similarly, the defense has not really been to battle together yet. Maybe Coach Dad and Tomlin thought they needed a butt-kicking to get them to work harder?

  • Marlon

    I agree. That offense is tough to handle in a short week. I’m more concerned with our offense. Unlike the Eagles, we do not have an identity. Are we a no huddle team or not? Do we care about establishing a run game? Is Big Ben going to throw the ball 40 plus times per game? We are all over the map.

  • RW

    It’s really a combination of these things that led to the loss. Not one or the other. The concern, though, is that some players still aren’t able to win one on one matchups. Jarvis Jones has me most worried to be honest. He may be good against the run, but I he seems like more of a LOLB. In today’s NFL, you need to be able to Bull Rush the LT in addition to having some speed. Just don’t know about him. I also agree with the article regarding Shazier – he didn’t get off of his blocks all that well, but he had very little time to adjust to the pace of the offense. The only other area is the defensive backfield. Once again, Troy is the only starter back there I trust at all.

  • SixburghFan

    Go back and watch the first 10 minutes or so of the game. (I did.) The Steelers did fine in the LOS battles. They won some and lost some but that’s pro football. All the d-linemen got knocked back on a play or two but they also knocked the Eagles back on a number of plays. Worilds did well in that time. Jones did well against the run, did well against the running back who tried to block him in pass protection, but got owned by the tackle. After those 10 minutes, things went downhill quick. I think for three reasons: some guys looked tired (Heyward for sure), we didn’t adjust our defense when they adjusted their offense (on purpose, I imagine, to not show Cleveland or Baltimore anything), and guys got fooled by the Chip Kelly offense.

  • sweetleb

    summer cold excuse, coughing and low grade fever last for ever and makes your legs fell like rubber.

  • SteelerMike

    Ha, not only have I reeled in my expectations on this regular season, I’m thinking it could be seasons before the Steelers are a legitimate SB contender again. That’s because this team is in some major transition(s) on defense. Not only are most of the players different from 2-3 years ago, but the Steelers are trying to adapt to a changing league. LeBeau’s old base defense has become outdated and Steelers admitted as much when they made little effort to replace Casey Hampton with another huge nose tackle to plug the middle. Their decision to feature more and more sub-package football was, in essence, forced on them and unfortunately, the more they’ve featured sub-packages, the less effective they’ve become against the run – shredding their identity as a tough football team!! As another poster wrote the other day, until they learn to effectively stop the run out of sub-package football, they will be in big trouble. The Eagles game tells me the Steelers schemes and personnel are not close to meeting that goal. How long improvement may take is mostly speculation in my mind.

  • Steel PAul

    Matthew I usually don’t disagree with your articles overall, but this one feels like a reach.

    The previous week, Philly played NE and did not look sharp. NE had no trouble with the starters. Philly also had a short week to prep for the Thursday game and they excelled in all three parts of the game. These do not hold water.

    While the speed of their offensive play-calling May be an adjustment, the plays they run are not. I was at a 9th grade football scrimmage last night and saw the same play you referenced in this article about faking screen to one side and going the other way.

    This was a poorly prepared team who looked as if someone took its puppy. How that will play out, I do not know. But it wasn’t that the Eagles are too hard to play against, a short week, or lack of game-planning.

  • walter mason

    I thought the same thing. Bringing back Keisel is a sign that the DL has not imptoved and is not as good as we were hoping.

  • walter mason

    If our backfield keeps smoking, we are in for a long season and Ben throwing 40 plus. . Todays athletes of NFL caliber should not even be smoking cigarettes. Pot is bad for the lungs as well as the mind.

  • walter mason

    Yes a poorly prepared and deflated team. We can do better. But it may come down to a lack of discipline.

  • NinjaMountie

    Bro, there you go with the “excuse” tag again. I’ll say it one more time… sometimes there are reasons (or excuses) for why things happen the way they do. Now, unlike you, I don’t go with the “the team sucks” or “or players are crappy” excuse. I look for the reasons WHY they had such a poor performance.
    Do you remember when they started the read option in the NFL. Some teams were knocked back on their butts and it took them a few times actually playing against it to figure it out. This was the first time our younger, more inexperienced defense had to play at that tempo against an offense that, when clicking, can put up some yards on an opposing team. They did it last year to a whole lot of teams. We floundered, disappointingly, but not surprisingly.
    Now, I did watch the game and early on I commented on the message board that it we were at least getting pressure on Foles. Things didn’t continue so well…were there reasons? I guess that’s for each person to determine. I think there were and I think they can be corrected and improved upon. Some people seem to think the only reason it happened is because everyone in the Steelers org sucks…if that’s your thing..cool.

  • NinjaMountie

    Harrison turned into a man beast, though. Jarvis doesn’t look strong enough to play the position. I don’t ever see him getting leverage on the OT. I hope I’m wrong, but he’s one player I’m actually down on.

  • charles

    Are you saying get off the Shazier train and put Vince Williams aka ‘ray lewis jr’ in his place?
    You could let Worilds, Jones, Spence, Shazier, and Moats rotate on the edges…..

  • Burgh Ball

    Stop writing stuff I never said.. Never did I say the Organization sucks – or the team sucks – I said we were losing the one vs one battles at the LOS. If you couldn’t see that especially the NT’s getting whooped on – look at the game again. My whole point and reason they lost that game was LOS battles – one v one. Let’s leave it this – Let’s agree to disagree.

  • charles

    2 things I have heard here give some upside. No game planning, no show the opponents too much. The other was the Eagles performance against the Pats. Kelly must have threatened some starters, because Philly came out of the gates at full speed. This game including crimes may very well be a blessing in disguise.

  • NinjaMountie

    First of all, I never said you said anything. I said some people, meaning some people not necessarily you. I’ll admit that your tone seems to be inline with the we are doomed crowd. Again, I never disagreed with your assertions, I merely gave a reason (or excuse) for why they may have happened. So, I don’t disagree with you, though, there was early pressure that got less and less as the game continued. I’m not so worried about the potential of the DL, I am very concerned about the ability of Jarvis Jones, however.

  • steeltown

    The guys are embarrassed. Humbled. It will only make them work harder, study harder, play harder.

  • steeltown

    More than anything, we got our butts whooped in the trenches on both sides of the ball. That cant happen if you want to be successful. I am confident with guys like DeCastro, Beachum and Pouncey, Heyward and Keisel and the young promising rookies, they can and will play better

  • steeltown

    Yea I think they could see the DL deficiencies, so they made the move for Keisel, funny a lot of people were questioning the move at first. Now, its clear we could use his experience and run stuffing ability

    Im still excited for the future of this DL though, Heyward can be dominant, if/when the younginz Tuitt and McCullers round into form we could have a very good front 3

  • steeltown

    Hopefully C.Thomas can truly just be that depth swing guy (like Al Woods) in turn giving Keisel and Tuitt the majority of the snaps opposite Heyward

  • steeltown

    I think everyone saw Shazier tear it up last week and now just expect it from him. He’s still young, he needs to work on his craft just like everyone else.

  • sean mcmartin

    There are reasons we are a spoiled fan base, and the reason is the team at one time had above average athletes who could Dominate the line on Defense. and looked nothing like the players that wear the same uniform this season.

  • sean mcmartin

    I think the beginning of the dominant line left with Aaron smith. That guy was so underrated. his side rarely got pushed backwards when he was playing. hampton required two guys to block him. and harrison and woodley could stuff the run and rush the passer.Bringing back Kiesel just shows the Steelers need to re-evaluate the scouts and coaching staff. Mike Tomlin at least deserves to be on the hot seat for the lack of motivation this team has when they step on the field. rats and bungles are in pre-season and they didnt stink up the place like the Steelers did. no more excuses,,

  • sean mcmartin

    Charles your comment leads me to wonder if Tomlin has the ability to threaten anyone into playing their hardest. It sure seems like he is not capable of getting a team fired up like some of the top coaches do.

  • sean mcmartin

    It is looking bad for JJ. watched some old woodley footage recently. and Its night and day. Sadly, Joey porter might not be able to fix this one.
    I had a knee jerk reaction to the third game . but even after I watched it again, JJ does not have the physicality to handle being an OLB in the Steelers scheme. zero disruption. Not where 1st round money needs to be spent.

  • Tammie Sherrell Hill

    As much as I hate the way we played I’m thinking 1) they were more concerned about their team mates legal issues than the game or 2) tomlin wanted them to face humility early so they know they have to fight for every yard nothing is gonna be handed to them (chuck daley did that to the dream team when they lost to college ball players they lost was embarrassed and won every game leading to the gold) that’s just my two pennies hoping that we cant be this bad and that was part of the game plan

  • Randy Neff

    Two months from now this team should be hitting their stride. Their talent, coaching, and schedule should result in a solid record at that point. Intensity levels increase all in all areas once the bell rings in two weeks. Way too early to panic.

  • walter mason

    Isnt this what Warren Sapp said? Our NG is too small?