The Pittsburgh Steelers have an interesting task ahead of them today as they travel to Philadelphia in the hopes of sullying the rookie campaign of quarterback Carson Wentz, who has led the Eagles to a 2-0 start of the season having avoided throwing an interception in over 70 pass attempts. He is the only rookie since the merger to have done both.
It goes without saying, then, that how he performs, and how the Steelers defenses acts against and reacts toward him, is going to be one of the central features to watch for throughout the game. Pittsburgh has already said that they are hoping to confuse him with different looks and disguised looks, which is pretty standard protocol.
Offensively, the biggest thing, I think, to keep an eye on is how the snaps at the wide receiver position get distributed now that fourth-year man Markus Wheaton is expected to be back on the field after sitting out the first two games with a shoulder injury.
When the Steelers have used three or more wide receivers on the field together thus far this season, second-year wide receiver Eli Rogers has been on the field for 86 of 88 snaps, over 97 percent of the time, and he has predictably spent the majority of that time in the slot.
But both he and Sammie Coates have logged nearly equal, and equally significant, playing time over the course of the first two games, and both have contributed in their fashion. Rogers has a touchdown and a handful of third- and fourth-down conversions, while Coates has caught three passes of over 40 yards.
Todd Haley said on Thursday that there will be packages for everybody on Sunday, but he did also say that when somebody stands head and shoulders above the other, he will be the one getting on the field most of the time. So I would expect a healthy rotation of contributors to start.
Both the Eagles and Steelers have scored their fair share of points while preventing their opponents from doing the same. Pittsburgh averages 31 points per game while surrendering 16, and Philadelphia is averaging 29 and 12, respectively, so there will be one trend or another taking a hit today.
Unlike Pittsburgh, however, the Eagles have been able to get after the quarterback this year with six sacks, five coming from the defensive front. Alejandro Villanueva in particular will be tested. The left tackle has given up both of the team’s two sacks thus far.
Although he has yet to really get going thus far this season, Darren Sproles is always a player to keep an eye on, and he does have a 40-yard punt return to his credit already.
Speaking of punt returns, that remains a situation to monitor for Pittsburgh, which has used both Rogers and Antonio Brown. Brown has taken only two returns, however, while Rogers has taken eight through two games. Both are averaging nine yards per return thus far.