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The Pittsburgh Steelers head to the other side of the state to take on the Philadelphia Eagles, whose uptempo and aggressive offense will test the resolve of Pittsburgh’s younger, quicker defense. The Steelers are coming off a victory a week ago, but are hoping to avoid too many distractions caused by the recent legal troubles of their one-two punch in the backfield, though both Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount are dressed.
The Eagles won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball. Dri Archer is asked to wait a bit longer before watching a kickoff boom through the end zone.
Nick Foles‘ first-down pass was incomplete, but he connected with Riley Cooper on second down for 12 yards to move the chains. Mike Mitchell was forced to take down LeSean McCoy on second down after a long gain.
Lawrence Timmons started to turn the tide after dropping McCoy for a loss of five, and Foles could not connect on second down. Ike Taylor helped end the Eagles’ first drive by batting the ball out of the receiver’s hands.
As anticipated, Bell started at running back for the Steelers. Bell carried to the right side of the line on first down for a gain of just two. Trying the left side, he gained just two on second down to set up third and six. Ben Roethlisberger found old reliable Heath Miller for a new set of downs.
Bell showed good change of direction on his third carry, finding space for about eight yards on first down, laying a shoulder for extra yardage. On second down, Roethlisberger looked to Bell running a route in center field, but was hit be DeMeco Ryans, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
Blount replaced Bell on the next snap and got the call for a five-yard gain before coming back off the field. On second and five, Roethlisberger tried to hit Bell, but the ball bounced in the air and off the back’s hands twice. With five wide on third and five, Roethlisberger threw quickly to Markus Wheaton, but the two were clearly not on the same page. Brad Wing‘s first punt went for a touchback.
Jason Worilds got caught on a McCoy cut back on second down for the Eagles. Jeremy Maclin kept the chains moving a couple plays later, and on the following play, Foles found Brent Celek down the middle of the field, bouncing off Mitchell for extra yardage.
Worilds was able to pressure Foles on first down after the big gain from the tight end, and helped bring down Darren Sproles on second down. Facing third and six, Sproles couldn’t hold on to the ball, but Taylor was flagged for defensive holding.
Worilds was bearing down on Foles on the following play, but he got the pass off. Cortez Allen made an excellent play to knock the ball down in front of the receiver near the goal line. The pass intended for Celek was incomplete deep on second down. Foles faked a screen left and then threw a screen right to McCoy on third down, who followed his blockers into the end zone, giving the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
To the surprise of nobody, the Eagles’ first kickoff was not returned. Meanwhile, McCoy has been taken into the locker room.
Roethlisberger looked to Miller quickly, but apparently too quickly on first down, as the tight end was not looking for the ball. On second and 10, the quarterback looked deep downfield for Wheaton, but the cornerback was flagged for illegal contact, giving the Steelers a first down.
Blount once again delivered another cutback on his second carry, and again picked up five yards. On second and five, Roethlisberger hit Miller for seven yards off of play action.
With seemingly nowhere to go, Blount found the small sliver of daylight for a three-yard gain following the first down through the air. On second and seven, another play action pass went to Wheaton, but the ball was behind him, setting up third and long. Roethlisberger’s pass to the sideline was over Wheaton’s head. Wing’s second punt was fair caught outside the 20 after a 37-yard punt.
Foles connected with Maclin after a fake handoff for a short gain after the punt. Riley Cooper brought in the pass on third down for a new set of downs. Taylor was flagged for pass interference on the play.
Matthew Tucker gained nine yards on two carries near midfield. The back converted on third and one.
Timmons came in on the blitz, but Foles got the pass off, and Celek took a big hit from Mitchell at safety, holding on for an 18-yard gain.
Cooper was flagged for offensive pass interference against Taylor in the end zone on the following play to make it first and 20. Troy Polamalu tackled Sproles after a gain of eight to end the first quarter.
On second and 12, Sproles found another small seam for four yards, and Foles connected with Zach Ertz for 12 yards in front of Ryan Shazier for the first down.
Foles hit Maclin on two straight plays for 12 yards to set up first and goal. Allen was flagged for illegal contact, his second penalty on the drive, to make it half the distance to the goal from the two. An offsides gave the Eagles the ball on the one.
Once again on first and goal, Sproles punched it in to give Philadelphia a 14-0 lead.
Archer got his first opportunity to return a kick, and he only reached the 15 after being tripped up by an arm. Bell plowed ahead for four yards on first down. Going five wide, Roethlisberger hit Archer on a crossing route, but only gained two yards. On third and four, he forced one to Antonio Brown, but he came up with the ball and the first down, and then some. Unsportsmanlike conduct added 15 to the end of the play.
Archer actually pass protected and blocked his man, but Wheaton could not hold on to the ball. The Eagles were flagged for illegal contact nonetheless.
The offensive line allowed a free rusher that flushed Roethlisberger out of the pocket, who threw the ball away, but it appeared to be intercepted by Nolan Carroll.
Following the turnover, Ertz was able to best Shazier again for a catch down the field. The camera men completely missed the second play, which ended with Maclin on the ground holding his knee. On the following play, Polamalu came up with an interception after Sproles ran into his own man.
After an incompletion to Brown on first down, Roethlisberger threw to Bell, but the Eagles defense did an excellent job of containing him to a short gain to set up third and seven. Roethlisberger scrambled and nearly hit Brown on the run out of the pocket, but Malcolm Jenkins did an excellent job of getting a hand on the pass. Shaun Suisham missed the ensuing field goal.
Maclin was the recipient of Foles’ first pass after the turnover for nine yards. On second and one, Taylor was outmaneuvered on a receiver screen, but the rest of the defense held. Tucker was stopped on third down and one for no gain, and the Eagles elected to punt.
The clock operator angered Ed Hochuli and incurred his wrath, which was the highlight of the first half.
Following the punt and a penalty that pinned the Steelers deep in their own territory, Blount showed good feed on the first two plays for nine yards. Bell pushed past a defender on third and one for an easy conversion. The running game seems to be much more in shape than the passing game with Roethlisberger not at his best.
Blount ground ahead for another nice gain on first down, but the play was called back by a hold on Ramon Foster. Roethlisberger hit Archer in the flat for a gain of 10 after the penalty. On second and 10, Roethlisberger faked a handoff to Blount and then threw it to him, but the play only gained three yards. Roethlisberger’s pass was deflected to force a punt on third down.
After the punt, Foles hit Jordan Matthews for 14 yards across midfield. Just outside the 30 a few plays later, Maclin beat Allen for nine yards. A false start made it second and six, a wide receiver screen got the necessary yardage after Taylor was blocked out of the play.
From the 20, Foles couldn’t connect with Sproles streaking to the end zone, who beat Jarvis Jones one on one. Miscommunication on second down resulted in another incompletion. On third and 10, a swing pass toe Matthews was stopped well by Allen. The Eagles extended their lead to 17-0 with less than a minute to go in the half.
Blount fielded the kickoff and returned it to the 25, but a hold on Sean Spence brought the ball back and time off the clock. From the 11, Roethlisberger tossed to Miller for seven yards. Roethlisberger was sacked for the first time this preseason as the Eagles stripped the ball out on the wind up. The Steelers allowed the play to end the half.