It’s typically not a good thing when the biggest plays of the first half are the ones you didn’t make, and for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Markus Wheaton‘s inability to hold on to what should have been a touchdown pass at the end of the opening drive looms large. Pittsburgh had the ensuing field goal attempt blocked, and the Eagles used that field position to score a field goal of their own in response. The Steelers trail 13-3 entering the second half as Philadelphia starts the third quarter with the football.
The highlight of the game so far for the Steelers was a 41-yard deep shot to Sammie Coates, his fourth such reception in two and a half games. Eli Rogers also caught a 32-yard pass, and Antionio Brown‘s five-catch, 55-yard half already bettered last week’s output, but Pittsburgh has been unable to do anything on the ground.
The health of the team is going to be important to monitor in the second half. Ramon Foster at left guard left the game late in the half with a chest injury that he dealt with during the week, replaced by B.J. Finney. Defensively, Robert Golden is doubtful to return with a hamstring injury. Ryan Shazier has been in and out of the game due to injury, while Jarvis Jones returned with an injury of his own. James Harrison seemed to be limping coming off the field on the team’s last defensive snap. Lawrence Timmons also left the field and was expected to return, but did evidently has since been taken to the hospital. He left he field with a shin injury.
Just before kickoff, Ramon Foster and Robert Golden were downgraded to out for the remainder of the game. The Eagles started at their 25 following a touchback.
On first down, penetration from Cameron Heyward helped bottle up the run for no gain. Vince Williams and William Gay teamed on a tackle of Jordan Matthews after a seven-yard reception out of the slot. On third and three, Harrison drew a false start. On third and eight, the defense broke, and broke bad, with Wentz finding Darren Sproles after escaping Stephon Tuitt, with Sproles turning around Sean Davis twice as he raced into the end zone for 73 yards as the Eagles grabbed the 20-3 lead.
Following a touchback, Roethlisberger fired to Brown, who was bodying up to the defender to make the short reception for five yards. On second and five, going five wide, Roethlisberger dropped the snap, but got the pass off to Brown again for the first down against rookie Jalen Mills. The Eagles challenged the ruling on the field that Brown was inbounds on the previous reception. The ruling on the field was confirmed by review.
From the 49, Roethlisberger shook off a defender to get the ball toward Williams, but the pass was incomplete. On second and 10, Williams made one cut for a first-down run, by far his best carry of the day for 13 yards. Roethlisberger overthrew Jesse James on first down, with the tight end wide open on the Y-cross that would have been a big gain. On second down from the 38, Nolan Carroll defended a pass aimed for Rogers. On third down, Roethlisberger looked for Rogers again, but the receiver ended up on the ground, slipping, and he got up limping. Jordan Berry sent the punt into the end zone for a touchback, but a running into the kicker penalty brought the offense back out on fourth and five from the 33. Roethlisberger’s pass, intended for Brown, was nearly intercepted. David DeCastro was flagged for holding, but it was, of course, declined. Rogers suffered a toe injury and was ruled out.
On first down, Gay made the tackle behind the line of scrimmage on a screen, but he was flagged for a facemask penalty. Tuitt made the tackle on the draw run from behind for a gain of one after the penalty. The Eagles picked up the safety blitz and Wentz fired down the field for a 24-yard gain to Celek. From the 27, Sproles was cut down trying to find the edge. A big run up the middle brought the Eagles to the 13.
Smallwood spun out of a couple of tackles in the middle of the field for 12 yards to set up first and goal. From the one, Heyward was able to catch Smallwood working to the edge to bring him down at the line of scrimmage. On second down, Smallwood walked into the end zone across the right side as the Eagles march into blowout territory, seizing upon a 27-3 lead. The Steelers allowed only 32 points through the first two games combined.
From the 25, Roethlisberger threw incomplete over the middle to James on first down. A short throw to Brown picked up five yards to set up a third and five. Back to Brown on third down, Mills was penalize on the play for a first down. From the 49, Villanueva was drawn to a false start by the defense. Roethlisberger looked deep to Wheaton on the play, who elevated to try to make the reception, but was unable to hold on through contact with the defender. On second and 15, however, the quarterback was able to find Brown for 17 yards. But Brandon Graham got the sack on the next play for a fumble recovered.
On first down, Wentz looked deep to Dorial Green-Beckham in the end zone, with Ross Cockrell defending the ball, but Tuitt was penalized for roughing the passer. From the 26, Barner picked up four yards up the middle. Barner found the edge on the next play to set up a first and goal once again. From the eight, Barner broke another tackle on a carry to the right and easily slid into the end zone for the touchdown as the Steelers defense stands at 0-3 in stopping the Eagles in goal-to-go situations. Pittsburgh has now given up more points today than they did in two games. They trail 34-3.
A screen to Williams, making a defender miss, picked up 11 yards. Brown let a high ball go through his hands on the following play. On second and 10, it was the same story, just on the opposite side of the field and closer to the line of scrimmage. On third and 10, Roethlisberger stepped up in the pocket, but fired incomplete to Brown in tight coverage. Berry’s punt was fielded at the 18, and Darrius Heyward-Bey was there to make the tackle after two yards.
Barner was tackled looking for the right edge for no gain on the last play of the third quarter. Wentz found Agholor for 11 yards in the middle of the field. Mike Mitchell did a nice job of making the stop on a second-and-five screen. On third and short, a first-down run from Smallwood was negated by a holding penalty. The third-down draw was stopped for a loss as the defense forced a rare punt, just the second of the day. With Rogers out, Brown was back to receive, but it bounced in front of him and upfield before being downed by the Eagles.
A Brown reception from Roethlisberger hanging into the pocket with pressure swarming around him resulted in a 19-yard gain. A facemask penalty tacked on 15 yards to the end of the play. From the Eagles’ 28, he checked down to James under pressure, but an offside penalty wiped out the play. On first and five, Marcus Gilbert was beaten around the edge by Graham again for the sack. Roethlisberger barely escaped another sack just to throw incomplete to Williams over the middle. A screen pass attempt was incomplete. On fourth down, with 14 to go, it went to Brown underneath, who took a couple shots trying to fight for extra yardage on a turnover on downs.
Another inside zone run for Smallwood went for first-down yardage. Gay and Williams converged on the stop on the following play. A six-yard run made it third and three. Wentz hit Matthews over the top, but his second foot was out of bounds. The Eagles’ third punt of the game was fielded with a fair catch at the five. But a hold on the Eagles resulted in a rekick. Brown fair caught the punt at the 21, with Roethlisberger returning to the field.
Roethlisberger targeted Wheaton deep coming over the middle, incomplete. He found Brown on the run on second down to move the sticks. A Williams dumpoff picked up six yards. Wheaton picked up his first reception on five targets, a tough pass that however only went for two yards. On third and two, with five wide, it was Coates with the reception for the first down.
Roethlisberger looked to go over the top for Coates, but he threw too long and Coates did not pick up the cue to get upfield. On second and 10, Roethlisberger escaped pressure to throw down the field into the end zone for Heyward-Bey, with the defender wrestling the ball away from him in the end zone.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) September 25, 2016
The Steelers allowed a seven-yard run on third and seven after the interception to allow Philadelphia to extend their clock-killing efforts. A two-yard run brought the game down to the two-minute warning. After a five-yard gain, Williams came up to make the tackle in the hole to force a punt with about 30 seconds left in the game. Brown fair caught the punt at the 22 and Roethlisberger came back on the field under center just to hand the ball off for a short gain to end what has been one of the worst Steelers losses in decades.