New series we’ll do each Sunday morning before kickoff. A prediction of what will happen if the Pittsburgh Steelers win, if they lose, and my final score prediction. So let’s kick things off with this afternoon’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Steelers Will Win If…
– They win on third down. As we’ve written about, the Steelers have one of the best third down defenses while the Eagles have one of the worst third down offenses. Given their desire to force teams to string together long drives, and avoid chunk plays, the Eagles are going to have to turn the tide on their conversion ability. If they can’t, the Steelers will be in the drivers seat.
– Take advantage of 1v1 matchups. The Eagles like to play a lot of Cover 1 and the cornerbacks might not have the firepower to cash that check. Jalen Mills is a rookie and Ron Brooks is far from the league’s best slot corner. Pittsburgh is in position to get more chunk plays than usual.
– The offensive line continues to play clean. The Steelers have been sacked just once in each of the first two games and I’ve only charged the offensive line with one of those. They’ve been penalized once as a unit, a Marcus Gilbert false start a week ago. I’m willing to bet they’re the only team in the league who haven’t had a linemen called for holding.
Philadelphia’s front four is tough and yet a stark contrast to what the Cincinnati Bengals had to offer last week. They won’t be able to stop, but if they can slow down the Eagles’ pass rush, they’ll be in a much better place.
– The Eagles’ run game is stuffed. Philiadelphia likes to get the ball out on the perimeter as much as anyone and they have the athletic chops up front to, in theory, execute it. But they’ve had their problems the first two games and the Steelers front seven is an athletic, hard-charging bunch who should be able to shut it down.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
– Field position isn’t as kind this week. And that starts with the dangerous Darren Sproles, the Eagles’ punt returner who is as much a threat as anyone. Not only can he house one, he has the ability to flip the field and give his offense a short trek to make.
– The Eagles’ front four is just too much. It’s a potent, deep group and like I wrote, they’re a different bunch than the Bengals. Not a lot of physically towering players, especially on the edges, but quicky and flexible ends in Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin, Marcus Smith, and Vinny Curry.
Let’s compare the average size of the Bengals and Eagles top four ends.
Eagles average DE size: 6’2 7/8 260 pounds
Bengals average DE size: 6’6 3/4 273 pounds
So on average, the Bengals ends are four inches taller and 13 pounds heavier. Big difference. There’s advantages to that, of course, but it’s an adjustment to make.
– Philadelphia get their chunk plays. They haven’t been the best at it this season but they’ve certainly taken their vertical shots. Doug Pederson and friends do a nice job designing concepts that will flood a third of the field with vertical routes built in (their sail concepts and spinnaker routes). Eventually, the dam has to break for Pittsburgh. They can’t keep everything in front of them all season, right?
– The Steelers lose the turnover battle. Gotta give credit to the Eagles. They’re +4 in turnover margin and haven’t turned the ball over once all season long. Pittsburgh has a couple blemishes. There’s a reason why coaches so often point to this stat after the game.
Yearly Record: 1-1