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Steelers Vs. Eagles: Beyond The Box Score – Week 3

While the box score is relatively informative it doesn’t always tell the whole story. Here are the plays and circumstances not covered in any box score that had a critical role in the outcome of the Pittsburgh Steelers week 3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

After the Eagles marched down the field and converted their first field goal they kicked off to the Steelers with about five minutes left in the first quarter. The kick did not reach the end zone and wide receiver Sammie Coates was forced to return it. Poor special teams blocking contributed to Coates only making it out to the 15-yard line on the return. A holding call on Steelers linebacker Vince Williams only made things worse as the Steelers offense took the field with the ball at their own 8-yard line.

With 2:30 left in the first quarter the Steelers defense looked like they had things under control.  On 2nd and 13 Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz dumped the ball off to backup tight end Trey Burton, who fell forward getting a few yards setting up what should have been a 3rd and long.  Instead, Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons was called for unnecessary roughness. This changed the landscape of the drive.  The Eagles went from facing 3rd and long to possessing a new set of downs. They made the Steelers pay for this mistake, eventually turning the drive into seven points.

A play that baffled me happened with about 3 minutes left in the first half with the Eagles deep in Steelers territory. It was 3rd & 7, the Steelers rushed four players at Wentz, who had at least four seconds to survey the field before dumping it off to his running back Darren Sproles.  Sproles then proceeded to make both Williams and cornerback William Gay miss before backup inside linebacker L.J. Fort made the play. Yes, the defense made the stop, but two people missed tackles and even worse the defense gave up points on the Eagles’ third consecutive possession. Why the defense was celebrating absolutely baffles me.

Ben Roethlisberger shifted the Steelers’ into their two-minute offense with less than two minutes left in the half. On 3rd and 4 the offense dialed up a wide receiver screen to Eli Rogers. He made the catch and tried to get behind his blockers. But one of them, Steelers tight end Jesse James, didn’t even touch his man resulting in an easy tackle and stop for the Eagles’ defense.

A minute into the second half the Eagles faced a 3rd and 8. Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt was able to pressure Wentz but it only backfired. Wentz calmly side-stepped Tuitt and broke the pocket which gave him time to find Sproles downfield all by himself. When the zigging and zagging was over, the extra time Wentz bought resulted in a 73-yard touchdown catch and run by Sproles

With 11 minutes left in the 3rd quarter the Steelers were attempting to convert a 3rd and 10.  Roethlisberger tried to link up with Rogers on a crossing route after he had a step on the coverage.  Instead, Rogers fell, injured with what we now know is turf toe and Roethlisberger’s pass went right through the hands of Eagles safety Rodney McLeod.

Only 4 minutes remained in the 3rd quarter when Eagles defensive tackles Benny Logan and Fletcher Cox beat Steelers right guard David DeCastro on consecutive plays that both resulted in sacks. On Cox’s sack Roethlisberger fumbled and Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham recovered. While these sacks and the fumble show up in the box score, the demoralizing factor of them occurring on back to back plays doesn’t.

All across the board the Steelers were outclassed, on the field, and in the box score.  Let’s hope for a better performance this week when the Kansas City Chiefs come to town.

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