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Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: Philadelphia Hurts Pittsburgh

GAME PRELUDE

I watched this game from home again. Sadly, the pandemic and the NFL marketing of NFL game passes has crushed attendance at Steelers bars. My old local standby no longer caters to Steelers fans on gamedays. As the business model became untenable. A number of longtime Steelers bars did not survive the pandemic or earlier downturns including the Tortoise and Hare in Arlington, Virginia and Piranhas Bar & Grill in Nashville, Tennessee.

Going into this game, the Steelers 10.5 underdogs according to the Vegas Line. Pittsburgh had not won in Philadelphia since 1965. Both the Eagles and Steelers entered the NFL on the same day on July 8, 1933. Depressingly, the Eagles owned a 48-28-3 record (now 49-28-3). A third franchise, the Cincinnati Reds also started up on the same day. The Reds folded after 1934, Cincinnati bungling even back then.

What some may not realize is that today’s Steelers were originally the Philadelphia Eagles; and that the original Pittsburgh Steelers are today’s Eagles. And no, it’s not about the 1943 Steagles. Art Rooney sold the Steelers in 1940. Here’s the story of the Iron Men if you are interested in team history.

But back to the present day. T.J. Watt not activated for the game. Chris Boswell also out with Larry Ogunjobi. Kicker Nick Sciba signed to practice squad. Sciba and Carlos Davis activated to replace the kicker and reinforce the defensive line. Could the Steelers contain Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts and score points on their defense?

STEELERS OFFENSE

The offense played catch-up all game.

Steelers Hang with Eagles for First Quarter

The Steelers hung with the Eagles for the first quarter. Steelers open the game with a three and out. Scored a touchdown to tie the game. But otherwise punted the ball away and finished the half with Kenny Pickett’s sack. Here are some of the key plays on the first half drives.

Kenny Pickett sacked on third and nine on the opening drive. A harbinger of future plays. The Eagles take an early 7-0 lead after the Steelers three and out. Derek Watt catches a five yard pass on the first play of Pittsburgh’s second drive. But the gain is erased on the next snap when Kevin Dotson flagged for ineligible receiver downfield. Steelers fifth similar penalty this season. Pittsburgh recovers by Pickett connecting with Diontae Johnson for 14 yards and a first down. Claypool gains eight yards on a short pass.

Flag Happy Crew

But now Chuks Okorafor caught in an illegal formation on the next snap. Officials flag Philadelphia giving Pittsburgh a first down. This crew is very flag happy. Unbelievably, a fourth penalty on this drive for delay of game on Kenny Pickett. He needs to keep better attention to the play clock. Jaylen Warren hits the hole fast for 12 yards on second and 13. Then Pickett keeps for the first down. Kenny Pickett finds Pat Freiermuth down the middle for 21 yards to the 18. Pickett picks up another first down scrambling 11 yards to the left sideline. On second down, Najee takes a direct snap to the two. But incomplete on third down. Pittsburgh lines up for the field goal. But Philadelphia called for a defensive delay of game penalty. Still fourth down but Mike Tomlin decides to go for seven from the one. Claypool sprinting to the left, pulls up and tosses left-handed pass to Derek Watt to tie the game 7-7. A trick play!

 

Steelers Answer Eagle Touchdowns with Field Goal

Philadelphia answers with another touchdown. Dan Moore called for illegal formation putting Pittsburgh into a hole on first down. Then two straight plays that Eagles defenders tackle for a loss create a third and 19 from the eight. Warren picks up ten yards on a short pass just to gain some ground. Harvin punts. The defense forces a punt of their own. But Kenny Pickett throws three straight incompletions. Punt. Eagles exploit favorable field position due to Harvin’s 38 yard punt and go up 21-7.

The Steelers need to respond to get back into the game.

On first down, Pickens makes a great catch for 27 yards. But officials call him for offensive pass interference. I just don’t see it even after the replay. I’m just not sophisticated enough to understand NFL rules and their application by the officials. Instead of first and ten, it’s first and 20. On third and ten, Pickett scrambles nine yards. He fumbles but ball goes out of bounds. On fourth down and in their own territory, Tomlin elects to go for it. Pickett keeps for a first down. At the two minute warning, Pittsburgh faced second and ten at the Philadelphia 39. Pickett hits Freiermuth for 18. They reach the 18. Pickett targets Pickens who appears to catch the ball then hits the ground. But no challenge. On third and seven, Pickett sacked before he completed his drop back. Sciba kicks his first NFL field goal and its 21-10.

Steelers get the ball back with 25 seconds left. Former Steelers lineman Javon Hargrave sacks Pickett on second down ending any chance of adding points in the first half.

Steelers Score Three in Second Half

Philadelphia goes up 28-10 in five plays to open the second half. Pittsburgh reaches the Eagles 11 on a 15 play drive that lasts 6:58. The offense converts two fourth downs on this drive. The first was a direct snap to Marcus Allen on fourth and two from the Pittsburgh 33. Okorafor falls on a defender and called for holding. On first and 20, Claypool makes huge second effort to make first down. Then Najee Harris takes a short pass for nine yards on fourth and three at the Eagle 41. Just a play before, Najee tried juking after taking a short pass on third and three and gained nothing. He should have taken a page from Jaylen Warren’s playbook and just bulled ahead. Warren runs ten yards to the 17. He hits the holes quick.

 

Pickett fails to connect with Claypool on third and four. But Steelers making effort. So, Steelers kick for three. It’s 28-13. I’d like to see Najee doing more of this:

 

Fourth Quarter Woes

And that’s really it for the offense. The Steelers three possessions in the fourth end in two turnovers and a punt. The first actually started at the one in the third quarter. Pickett throws incomplete on third down to Diontae Johnson. But Bradberry called for defensive pass interference to give Pittsburgh a first down. Eagles protecting against the pass. Najee takes a delayed handoff 18 yards.

Freiermuth catches a ten yard pass for a first down. Stephen Sims gave earnest effort for a first down to the Eagle 36. But on next play, Pickett scrambling and Hargrave strip sacks him from behind. Eagles score a couple plays later. It’s 35-13. I thought Kenny threw the ball at first. But replay from different angle shows Hargrave knocking it out of his hand.

The Eagles liberally substituting on both sides of ball. Steelers reach Philadelphia territory. But on third and five, Pickett sacked for 11 yard loss. Punt. The final possession began with 7:06 to play. Warren takes a short pass 15 yards. Eagles defending against deep passes. Pickett sacked a sixth time. Warren draw play for 19. But clock is ticking. On third down, Pickett heaves ball toward Freiermuth in end zone. Ball tipped and intercepted. Eagles hold the ball for the final 4:18 until the referee mercifully blows the final whistle

STEELERS DEFENSE

The Steelers defense outmatched by a superior Eagles team. Eagles score touchdowns on five of ten possessions.

Eagles Two TDs First two Drives

The Steelers defense go onto the field after the offense goes three and out to open the game. From their own 32, the Eagles go right down and score. On third and one, Miles Sanders runs seven yards. Defense holds Eagles on third and nine. But Philadelphia converts fourth and two via Jalen Hurts to Dallas Goedert five yard completion. Then Hurts throws 39 yards to A.J. Brown for the go-ahead touchdown. Minkah Fitzpatrick in coverage backing up had his eyes on the pass but did not high point the ball. So instead of an interception or at least a pass break-up, it’s an Eagles score. Fitzpatrick visibly upset with the missed opportunity.

Steelers tie game. But the Eagles take the kickoff and march right back down the field. On third and two, Eagles run up the middle for three and a first down. Heyward tackles Hurts for no gain on third and one. But referees determine Montravius Adams offsides. How can you line-up offsides if you are right over the ball? Dumb penalty. On another third and one, Hurts hits Goedert for 16 yards. Defense holds until third and eight. Then Hurts drops a beautiful pass into A.J. Browns waiting arms with Ahkello Witherspoon in tight coverage. But he was in no position to see the ball. Eagles break the tie. Up 14-7.

Eagles Three and Score

Eagles get ball back after Pittsburgh punt. Alex Highsmith blows up a short pass for a ten yard loss. Eagles can’t get out of the second and 20 hole so punt. Steelers offense punts one of their own giving Philadelphia good field positions at their own 40. The Eagles waste no time. Tight end Goedert gets another 17 yards on first down. Then a 14 yard first down pass to Devonta Smith. Hurts another pretty pass to Brown in double coverage. Pittsburgh does three and outs. Philadelphia three and score. It’s 21-7.

Steelers get three. Eagles have ball for final first half possession with 1:02 to go. Goedert for 12 again on first down. Malik Reed sacks Hurts. Eagles timeout. But Eagles still pressing. Carlos Davis makes a diving sack of Hurts to force a punt.

 

Eagles Little Bother by Steelers Defense

The Eagles offense little bothered by Steelers defense. After an incompletion. Three straight first downs. Miles Sanders runs 21 yards on second play of half. Devonta Smith reception for ten. Sanders runs for ten. Then Hurts hits Zach Pascal for 34 yards. Why bother with the red zone if you can score at will from outside the 20?

Pittsburgh makes to 28-13. Dallas Goedert converts a third and four with a seven yard catch. Heyward sacks Hurts creating a third and 24. Eagles content to run Sanders for 14 yards then punt. Time is on their side with a 15 point lead. Instead of cutting into the lead, Pittsburgh gives ball back to Eagles on a strip sack. On first play, Hurts connects with A.J. brown for 43 yards. Then Sanders runs for an 11 yard score.

The Eagles get ball back with 9:34 left and score still 35-13. They bring in their second team. Back-up Brandon Scott runs three times including one nullified by a holding call. Gardner Minshew throws an incompletion. Eagles punt.

Eagles get ball a final time with 4:18 left. Minshew competes a short third down pass to Pascal that goes 23 yards. Pittsburgh still had two timeouts but that first down ended it. Mike Tomlin pockets them. This game is over. Scott runs three times until the final kneel down.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Special teams are an underappreciated facet of the game where one big play can shift momentum or even decide the game winner.

I break special teams play into three phases: Kickoffs, punting, and field goals including extra point attempts. Here is an overview of the special teams play during the game:

KICKOFFS

Nick Sciba kicked off four times in his NFL debut. Britain Covey returned the first three. The coverage unit contained covey on the first and third kicks. Marcus Allen tackling him at the 21 on the first. And Connor Heyward catching him at the 25 on the third. But Covey gained 26 yards to the 30 on the second. Officials tacked on five more yards due to an illegal kickoff formation. Simply unacceptable. Luckily, Eagles failed to exploit the added field position. Sciba kicks out of bounds on his last kickoff. Again, Eagles failed to exploit the favorable field position. But unacceptable.

Jake Elliott kicked off six times. Elliott touched back on first and last two kickoffs. Stephen Sims returned two. Sims returned the first 38 yards with nifty running. Unfortunately, officials flagged Tre Norwood for holding at the 27. That backed up the ball from the 38-yard line all the way to the 17. After A.J.. Brown’s taunting penalty after his third touchdown, Elliott kicked from the 20. He reached the Pittsburgh 15, but Sims returned the ball 20 yards to the 35.

I give the edge to the Eagles since they had better overall starting position following kickoffs.

THE STATS

Kickoffs KOs RTN TB OB IN25 Pen Start Avg
Nick Sciba 4 3 0 1 0 1 PHL 30.25
Jake Elliott 6 2 4 0 0 0 PGH 25.3

 

Kickoff Returns KR Yds AVG Long Pen TD
Stephen Sims 2 47 23.5 27 1 0
Britain Covey 3 67 22.3 26 0 0

 

Advantage Eagles.

PUNTING

Pressley Harvin punted four times averaging 45.0 yards. Harbin’s first was best. From his own 18, he punted 55 yards. Miles Boykin there to tackle returner after just five yard return. Then from the 18 again, Harvin punted 46 yards and Marcus Allen tackled returned for just three yard return. Then Harvin punts out of bounds for just 38 yards from his 22. The Eagles score on ensuing drive to put Steelers two scores down. His fourth punt fair caught at the ten. Improved from last week, but one bad punt out of four is not acceptable.

Arryn Siposs also punted four times. Stephen Sims returned the first 49 yard punt ten yards to the 22. Sims then fair caught a 44 yarder at the 22.

Byzantine NFL Rules

Siposs then kicked a 46 yarder. Sims let it bounce thinking it was a going in for touch back. But McPhearson knocked it back onto the field of play. Olszewski attempted to recover the ball and took it into end zone. Referees ruled that McPhearson downed it at the one. I’m just an average fan and just don’t understand NFL rules. How can a defender who never controlled the ball down it? Why was it a smart play for Gunner to try to handle the ball? In rugby if a ball carrier carries the ball from the field of play into his own end zone, then he cannot gain an advantage. If he mishandled the ball, and a defender recovered it seems they could then score. The whole play didn’t make any sense to me. Regardless, the Steelers got the ball at the one. His final punt downed at the 49 after kicking 44 yards from his own seven. No 55 yard punts but consistently punted between 44-49 yards. That consistency along with the nonsensical punt give the Eagles the edge.

THE STATS

Punting Punts AVG Net TB OB/D IN20 Pen Long
Pressley Harvin 4 45.0 43.0 0 1 1 0 55
Arryn Siposs 4 45.8 43.3 0 2 1 0 49

 

Punt Returns PR Yds AVG FC Pen Long TD
Stephen Sims 1 10 10.0 1 0 10 0
Devonta Smith 1 3 3.0 0 0 3 0
Britain Covey 1 5 5.0 1 0 5 0

 

Advantage Eagles

FIELD GOALS and EXTRA POINTS

Nick Sciba made his extra point and two field goal attempts including a 38 yarder.

Elliott five for five on extra points. I give a sympathy edge to the Steelers since Sciba outscored Elliott. But Elliot could have missed all, and the Eagles still win easily.

THE STATS

FGs and PATs XPM XPA FGM FGA Long 2PTM 2PTA
Nick Sciba 1 1 2 2 38 0 0
Jake Elliott 5 5 0 0 0 0 0

 

Advantage Steelers

DAVE BRYAN’S VICTORY PUNCH LIST

Dave Bryan provided five keys for a Steelers victory. Here is how the Steelers performed them:

  1. Stop the Eagles running game. The Steelers really never stopped the run-pass option and scored a rushing touchdown from 21 yards out. Mission Failure.
  2. Defense takeaway a few balls. The Steelers defense failed to take away the ball. Mission Failure.
  3. Hold Eagles under 100 yards a catch. According to the Pro Football Reference, Eagles receivers combined for 116 after catch yards. Mission Failure.
  4. Pickett throws no interceptions. Pickett threw another interception. Mission Failure.
  5. Big Special teams play. The punt team did convert a fourth down that kept a drive alive. Mission Accomplished.

The Steelers accomplished one of the five keys to victory.

YOUR HOT TAKES DURING THE GAME

Thank you, Ross McCorkle, for keeping us posted on the game’s first and second half Live Update and Discussion Threads. Steelers Depot respondents contributed  1372 first half comments.  Respondents added  1260 more second half comments.  Here are the “best comments” of the game. I don’t know the algorithm used by Disqus but here is how they stacked it up:

Nelsonator762 garnered the “best” comment of the game with “Romo keeps crapping all over Canada and his system lol.” Taylor Williams may have found a new coordinator. “Romo needs to get off his butt and coach this offense.”

Following Pressley Harvin’s subpar 38 yard punt, CoachCot concludes that “The roster decisions this team makes are absolutely ridiculous. He’s a damn punter. He doesn’t get 3 years to ‘develop’ or ‘figure it out.’”

Trevgee had conclusions of his own. “Warren should just be RB1.”

Sadly, Monkey’s Uncle watched the game on the anniversary of his father’s passing. “Missing my dad today. 20th anniversary of his passing. Had Steeler season tickets starting in 1957, they’re still in the family. So many great memories of going to games with him. Happy today is a Steeler Sunday. Go Steelers and have a great afternoon all.” Godspeed Monkey!

I had the best second half comment following some questionable refereeing. “Frankly, if the Steelers franchise moved from Pittsburgh; I would not watch the NFL at all.” Several folks including BigDickSwangin agreed. “I don’t ever see that happening, but if it did i would be gone with you… I’ve lived in Tampa for over 20 years and can’t make myself care about the Bucs.”

Mwahahaaa generated a lot of responses when he placed the current Steelers situation in context. “The Eagles are a top Super Bowl contender with a deep line up, just like the Bills. This is the outcome you get when teams like that play a rebuilding team with a rookie QB. To be crying like a baby about this reality doesn’t make sense. The Steelers were due to suck, and it happens to every franchise. They need two good drafts to get back into the running.”

CONCLUSIONS

The Steelers go into the Bye Week with two wins and six losses. The Steelers started 2-6  under Bill Cowher in 2006 and Mike Tomlin in 2013. Both times, the team rebounded to go 6-2 and finish with 8-8 records. But one team just won a Super Bowl the previous year. The other loaded with the killer B’s including a still dangerous Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and LeVeon Bell. There is not much evidence that the 2022 version of the Steelers has the weapons to win seven of the next nine games.

I expect the Steelers to continue trying to win games. It is not in the organization’s DNA to tank for draft picks. That said, the team has an opportunity to evaluate those players and coaches that are keepers to build on into the next season. As importantly, which players and coaches to discard due to diminished skills or desire to compete in very difficult circumstances. Many pundits and fans believe they know the right moves. Mike Tomlin faces a perplexing task in keeping players engaged to continue their development as they are bound to lose more than they win this season. Here we go.

YOUR MUSIC SELECTION

I always like to offer a music selection. The Steelers have had a lot of good years. This is not one of them. The harder they try, the harder it seems to get. Sometimes as a Steelers fan, I just want to throw up my hands because I don’t know what else to do. Or I’ll sit on the porch with my hands in my face. But after all these years, it’s no time to give up now. Here is I Can’t Give Up by Lee Williams (RIP) & the Spiritual QC’s

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