As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) today’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa in today’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
My prediction is at the bottom.
THE STEELERS WILL WIN IF…
1. Defense Forces A Turnover
Might not sound like much. But it’s more than what most teams have done this year. Philadelphia has turned the ball over twice all season, a pair of Jalen Hurts’ interceptions, and that’s it. Far and away the best mark in football and it’s a huge reason why the Eagles are football’s lone unbeaten team. Obvious, simple, but take care of the football and you’re going to win games. For Pittsburgh to pull off an upset, they’re going to need to take the ball away. As a general principle and knowing how important that is to the Steelers’ anemic offense, keeping the score down and/or giving their offense prime field position. It’ll be hard to win this game without taking the ball away at least once.
2. Offense Wins Situational Football
Talking red zone and third down. Standard stuff, I know, but if the Eagles have a weakness defensively, it’s in both those areas. 29th ranked third down defense, 19th ranked red zone defense. Of course, Pittsburgh hasn’t excelled in those situations offensively but they’re going to need to later today. Can’t lose on possession downs against an undefeated team and expect to blemish their record.
3. They Dust Off Ravens’ Gameplan
While Pittsburgh can lean on their gameplan Sunday night against the Miami Dolphins, they can also look to their history against the Baltimore Ravens. To the Steelers’ credit, they’ve done well against Lamar Jackson, about as well as any team has done since he broke into the league. Expect plenty of eight-man boxes, forcing the give to the running back, and being smart with their rush lane integrity to make Jalen Hurts play from the pocket. Maybe they’ll even use the “mesh charge” against the Eagles’ zone read concepts to attack and hit Hurts as much as possible.
The STEELERS WILL LOSE IF…
1. Defense Doesn’t Tackle Well In Space
Similar to Miami, Philadelphia runs a lot of RPOs and plenty of window dressing to slow defenders down. One difference I noticed on tape was while the Dolphins attacked the middle of the field (some of that was due to Pittsburgh’s two-high shell), the Eagles get the ball on the perimeter with their RPO game. A lot of inside zone/bubble plays or screens to receivers and tight ends. So the Steelers’ defense must run to the ball and make tackles on the perimeter.
2. OTs Can’t Handle Eagles’ Rotation
The Eagles are strong across the board defensively `but they have serious athletes and threats on the edge. And they’ve added Robert Quinn into the fold, who I imagine will pick up snaps this weekend. Dan Moore Jr. and Chukwuma Okorafor have held their own this season (just two sacks allowed between the two) but facing Quinn, Brandon Graham, Hassan Reddick, Josh Sweat is a tough task. Fresh legs all game long. They can’t take over this game.
3. No Game-Changing Special Teams Moments
A pretty obvious one. Just in the way Pittsburgh beat Tampa Bay, they’re going to need an impact play on special teams. That came in the form of a big Steven Sims’ kick return against the Buccaneers to set up a field goal. Sims is healthy after missing Week 7’s game versus the Miami Dolphins and another big return would be a big boost. Failing that, a blocked punt, a forced fumble, anything that steals a possession and shortens a field. Of course, the team is without kicker Chris Boswell so Nick Sciba can’t miss an extra point or short field goal.
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