The Pittsburgh Steelers know a thing or two about fielding a shuffled roster due to injuries. They are preparing to face one opponent that has been dealing with that quite a bit this season in the Philadelphia Eagles, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, where they have had to adjust both on the offensive line and at wide receiver.
While there is clarity about what they will face against the line—Jordan Mailata will start again at left tackle, and Lane Johnson will go as much as he can at right tackle and be supplemented accordingly—the Steelers do not know which wide receivers they will see on the field.
The Eagles’ top two wide receivers, ostensibly, are DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. The latter has not even made it onto the field yet this year, still recovering from a foot injury suffered last season. He did not practice yesterday after being limited on Wednesday, and an illness was added to his designation.
Jackson, in his second season back in Philadelphia since leaving in 2014, has played in three games but has missed time with a hamstring injury. He has been limited in practice this week because of it.
“When you have two guys like them who have years and years of film, and a year or two of film with a quarterback that’s already been in there, you get to watch older tape”, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, both of them they made names for themselves across the league doing the same type of things, so there’s plenty of film on them”.
He noted that their absence and the roles they serve within the Eagles’ offensive structure has ripple effects that we have seen in how the tight ends are used, particularly Pro Bowler Zach Ertz. “It’s kind of tough when you have a guy that depends on people were taking coverage away from him”, Fitzpatrick said.
“Ertz is a great tight end. Great hands can make competitive catches, he is who he is; we all know who he is But you don’t have those other receivers out there to take double teams off of him and everything else like that could obviously get difficult when he got two or three guys covering him.”
Greg Ward is the Eagles’ leading receiver so far this season with 18 catches for 146 yards and one touchdown. Ertz has 19 catches for just 139 yards and one score. Fellow tight end Dallas Goedert has 13 catches for 138 yards and a score. Jackson has 10 receptions for 121 yards.
Carson Wentz has completed 60 percent of his passes so far this year, but has averaged just 5.8 yards per attempt, and his adjusted yards per attempt is just 4.3. He has a league-leading seven interceptions to just four touchdown passes. The Steelers need to keep him performing at this level. whether or not he has his top two wide receivers will go a long way toward determining that.