The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 2010 when they did it without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but this time they will have the luxury of the future Hall-of-Famer under center, who has thrown six touchdown passes over the course of the first two games. In doing so, he will be looking to prevent rookie quarterback Carson Wentz from leading the Eagles to that same 3-0 record.
Wide receiver Markus Wheaton is back in the fold today for an offense that could use his experience, in spite of the fact that they have done well without him, averaging 31 points per game. The defense, meanwhile, has only allowed two touchdowns in posting a 16-points-per-game figure. But Philadelphia has allowed only 24 points through two games, so something has got to give.
Among the Steelers inactives today is only one interesting name of note, as it seems the team is going with B.J. Finney as their top interior backup with Cody Wallace still out. Finney is a natural center while Chris Hubbard, inactive, was a college tackle who moved to guard in the pros, so that makes sense.
Steelers Inactive Players
QB Zach Mettenberger
FB Roosevelt Nix
C/G Cody Wallace
DE L.T. Walton
CB Senquez Golson
LB Steven Johnson
T/G Chris Hubbard
Eagles Inactive Players
TE Zach Ertz
CB Leodis McKelvin
G Isaac Seumalo
WR Bryce Treggs
T Halapoulivaati Vaitai
C/G Josh Andrews
G Dillon Gordon
The Steelers won the coin toss and chose to receive the ball to start the game. Sammie Coates fielded the ball in the end zone and took a knee. Opening with two tight ends on the field, Roethlsiberger waited for an opening before firing to Antonio Brown at the line of scrimmage as he was immediately tackled for no gain. On second down, it was a quick pass underneath to Jesse James, which picked up just four yards. Immediately facing a third and long, with three wide receivers on the field, Roethlisberger found Eli Rogers down the field for 32 yards, the longest reception of his young career.
Off play action, Brown took a screen pass and with the benefit of a block slipped past the nearest defenders for 13 yards as the Steelers approach scoring range. From the 26, DeAngelo Williams took the handoff for the first time in the game, but he found no room up the middle. Still from the 26, it was Williams again, fighting through a tackle near the line of scrimmage and getting outside to the left for about four yards. Facing another third and six, Roethlisberger escaped the pocket and took it himself on an eight-yard scramble into the red zone.
From the 15, Williams was again bottled up close to the line of scrimmage as the Eagles’ front continued to prove stout against the run. On second and nine, he was dropped for a loss of four. Setting up third and 13, Roethlisberger sidestepped pressure a couple of times before throwing across his body to the far left corner of the end zone to Markus Wheaton, who dropped what should have been a touchdown pass. Chris Boswell subsequently suffered his first blocked kick of his career as the Eagles prevent the Steelers from scoring on a very promising drive.
Wheaton drop DOT gif #Steelers pic.twitter.com/u0A6k9jfs4
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) September 25, 2016
With the Eagles taking over at the 26, Robert Golden was able to make the tackle in the backfield for a two-yard loss. On second down, however, Carson Wentz found Brent Celek, who was able to get away from Ryan Shazier for a first down. Shazier came off the field after the play and seemed to be in obvious pain, rocking on the bench.
On the next play, Went found Darren Sproles on the screen with plenty of open space for a 40-yard gain all the way to the Steelers’ 14. In the red zone, Wentz’ pass sailed out of bounds to the left back corner of the end zone. On second down, Ross Cockrell did a nice job of cutting down Josh Huff for a short gain after a quick screen pass. On third and long, William Gay this time was immediately on the receiver on a pass near the line of scrimmage for a short gain, forcing the Eagles to attempt a field goal. The defense has prevented seven of eight red-zone drives from scoring, but Philadelphia nabbed the early 3-0 lead, making their field goal attempt.
Coates returned the short kick, unable to reach the 20-yard line. A penalty on Vince Williams backed the Steelers up even further. Starting from the eight, Roethlisberger dropped off a screen to Williams that picked up two yards. On second down, Brown took a screen for a first down thanks to a nice block from Rogers shaded to his side. Williams picked up another six yards on a short pass over the middle, nearly getting beyond the first defender. On second down, Wheaton was unable to complete a reception that seemed to be in on his chest faster than he expected. On third and four, Roethlisberger tried to float one over the middle for Rogers, but it was just a bit too deep. Jordan Berry‘s end-over-end punt rolled forward for 55 yards, downed by Darrius Heyward-Bey at the 18.
Stephon Tuitt got into the backfield to drop Ryan Mathews for a loss of three on first down. From the 15, Gay stopped another screen for a short gain, but Lawrence Timmons was tagged for unnecessary roughness, coming in late to join the tackle. Now from the 33, Wentz lost the ball on the snap, but he was able to pick it up and find Sproles for two yards. On second down, Huff was able to use his blockers for about eight yards, but Jordan Matthews was docked for a hold on Gay, which replay showed was obvious. Now second and 12 from the spot of the foul, the pass for Dorial Green-Beckham fell incomplete. On third and 12, Wentz was able to take advantage of a clean pocket to find the big receiver in front of Cockrell for the conversion.
Artie Burns missed on a tackle on Huff to allow a first down beyond the midfield line to start the second quarter, with Golden on the sideline injured. From the 39, Wentz threw over the head of his receiver with three Steelers in the area off play action. But he found Celek on a hot pass over the middle for 15 yards. From the 24, the Eagles were able to get to the perimeter on the ground, with Sean Davis making the shoestring tackle after a first-down run, and Shazier came back to the sideline.
The Steelers clogged it up on second down from the 13. Jarvis Jones limped off the field next. On second and nine, Matthews got in front of Gay for the touchdown inside to take a 10-0 lead, the biggest deficit Pittsburgh has faced this season, and the second red-zone touchdown allowed.
Fitzgerald Toussaint returned the ensuing kickoff and failed to reach the 20-yard line. Timmons in the meantime jogged off to the locker room as seemingly half of the defense leaves the game injured. Brown had a corner route well-defended in front of him on the first play of the drive. On second down, Roethlisberger was able to get the ball to James for about five yards. On third and five, Roethlisberger took a deep shot to Coates, who got behind the secondary for a 41-yard reception, his fourth reception of 40+ yards in the first 10 quarters of play.
From the Eagles’ 36, a back shoulder for Brown connected for about 20 yards into the red zone for the second time. From the 16, it was Daryl Richardson on the rush for a short gain. On second down, five wide, the Eagles were able to cut down a screen for Coates after a yard. Now third and eight, Roethlisberger stood in the pocket, but the play was whistled dead as in-the-grasp for a sack. Boswell’s 40-yard attempt was good, making it 10-3 as the offense goes 0-2 in the red zone.
Huff returned the ensuing kickoff from the goal line beyond the 20, with Coates in on the tackle. With Shazier and Timmons out, it is L.J. Fort and Vince Williams in at inside linebacker, though Jones has returned. Golden remains out. Burns missed a tackle attempt on Green-Beckham on first down. Agholor went for seven from the slot with Tuitt on the tackle as he made a jump-cut to get away from Burns. On second and three, however, Burns and James Harrison combined on the tackle on a screen pass for two yards. On third and one, the play was blown dead due to an illegal snap, resulting in a five-yard penalty. After a conversion, the Eagles continued to drive inside the 30.
From the 24, Anthony Chickillo pressured Wentz off play-action, forcing him to try to throw to a near target, narrowly avoiding a big intentional grounding penalty. On second down, Williams made the tackle after a three-yard gain up the middle on the ground. On third and seven, the defense was able to stop Sproles on a screen, forcing the Eagles to settle for a field goal, but they did take a 13-3 lead with a little under two and a half minutes to go in the half.
From the 25, Alejandro Villanueva was flagged for holding. On first and 14, Brown picked up 10 yards to reach the two-minute warning. Roethlisberger threw the ball away on second down with nobody open, in Brown’s direction. On third and four, Rogers was tackled immediately after a gain of less than a yard, leaving 1:46 on the clock with the Eagles carrying three timeouts in their pocket, and set to get the ball after halftime. Berry’s punt was booted 63 yards and returned to near the 20-yard line by Sproles.
Wentz’s first pass attempt was defended by Burns to the left side of the field. On second down, Cameron Heyward was able to swallow up Sproles for no gain as the Steelers used their first timeout. Shazier was back in in the game on the drive in the meantime. On third and 11, Burton was able to get the first down on a screen pass off of misdirection action by faking a screen to the right.
Now from the 35, Wentz took a hit as he threw deep down the field, but a bit too high, to Burton. On second down, Harrison got around the corner again, but not in time, though the pass on an underneath throw was dropped. On third and 10, after a pair of incompletions, Sproles was unable to get the first-down as he went out of bounds. Shazier was undercut as the first defender. Harrison limped a bit off the field, as Shazier went back to the bench in pain yet again. Rogers returned the punt for about three yards, tackled at the 15, with 27 left and two timeouts.
Williams was bottled up on the draw run on first down as the Steelers simply let the play run to end the half.