Steelers’ Thursday Showing May Demand Extended Encore From Starters

Needless to say for anybody who actually watched the game, the 10-point deficit that the final scoreboard read certainly does not do justice to how soundly the Philadelphia Eagles handled the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night.

The most telling fact is that the Eagles were so satisfied with their own players’ performances that they were readily rotating one line of the depth chart for the next. By the time the game was over, Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, and Matt Barkley had all given way to G.J. Kinne at the quarterback position, for comparison.

Meanwhile, head coach Mike Tomlin was so disappointed in his starters’ performance in the first half of the game that, as halftime ended, when asked if he will continue to play his starters, he simply responded by saying “absolutely”, with his expression and demeanor helping to fill in any leftover blanks.

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ first-team personnel remained out there for the first two drives of the second half until they finally scored, off a scramble drill touchdown to Heath Miller in the far right corner of the end zone.

Meanwhile, the first-team defense continued to struggle, allowing Sanchez to lead touchdown drives on the Eagles’ first two possessions of the half. The backups didn’t play until there were already two minutes gone in the fourth quarter.

I joked during the game, probably right around the time that Matthew Tucker punched in his second one-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter, that at this rate, the starters would have to play all of the final preseason game.

That was a joke, but you’d have to imagine that Tomlin’s original plans for the final preseason game may have been altered by his team’s most recent performance.

If it were up to Cameron Heyward, he may play the entire game himself, if his response to the team’s performance is anything to go by.

Of course, players with injuries, such as Jason Worilds—one of the few bright spots in his pass rushing from that game—may sit out.

But overall, I would expect to see the first-team units play more into the game than they normally would. They might, for example, be asked to play a full quarter or so of the game, depending on the length of the drives.

It’s important to remember just how much change the team has undergone over the past year. There are many kinks in the system still being massaged out, and as we saw on Thursday, they are not insignificant fixes to make.

The league has been trying to argue that the preseason is too long. That may be the case for some teams, particularly those surrounded by veterans. But at least for this Steelers team, it’s clearly not long enough.

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