Labriola On

Labriola on loss to Eagles

PHILADELPHIA – "Uh, we stunk. Yeah, we all stunk."

So it was that Ben Roethlisberger succinctly summed up the Pittsburgh Steelers' contribution to what was supposed to be the NFL's showcase game of Week 3 of the 2016 regular season, one matching a couple of 2-0 teams from opposite ends of the Commonwealth that ended up being pulled by CBS in some TV markets and replaced by something more competitive because 34-3 is a proven way to have viewers reaching for the remote.

About the only thing the Steelers won over the course of three painful hours inside Lincoln Financial Field was the coin toss, but then when their opening possession ended with a blocked field goal, it served as an ominous indicator of how the rest of the proceedings would unfold.

There was plenty to hate about how the Steelers played against the Eagles, and as Chuck Noll once said, "When you lose, everything they say about you is true."

And so today, the defense deserves the criticism for being unable to get any pressure on rookie quarterback Carson Wentz or to make any plays on the football. The offense that was supposed to have the potential to dominate opponents consistently stopped itself with penalties and dropped passes. And special teams set a negative tone for the entire team while helping spark the Eagles when Chris Boswell's 36-yard field goal attempt was blocked by 6-foot-2 defensive tackle Bennie Logan.

Listing the Steelers' inadequacies individually like that fails to paint a true picture of the team's "performance," because there were sequences in the game where units not only didn't pick each other up but managed to find ways to screw up in tandem. Such as Markus Wheaton dropping a pass in the end zone on a third down and then Boswell getting a field goal blocked on the next play – a fourth down – to present just one example.

It was one of those games where it's possible to blame each and every aspect of the Steelers' showing, from the coaching/preparation/planning to any and all of the units' execution, and be capable of making a good argument in favor of whatever you choose.

The Eagles came into the game undefeated, yes, but their victories were over the Browns and the Bears, and the offense they presented to the Steelers not only would be quarterbacked by a rookie but also would be lacking any of the kind of dynamic skill-position players who demand special attention from opposing defenses. But yesterday, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles and Brent Celek made big plays and/or scored touchdowns against a Steelers defense that was credited with no sacks, no takeaways, and only one pass defensed.

The Steelers offense, in its own way, really was no better. Wheaton dropped two, Ben Roethlisberger missed a couple of wide-open receivers, and if the offensive line had any designs of establishing itself as one of the NFL's best fivesomes it did itself no favors by what it showed against the Eagles defensive front.

Le'Veon Bell finished with seven carries for 8 yards and one carry for 13 to end up with a 2.6 average that only partly reflected the impotence of a running attack that arrived in Philadelphia averaging 135.5 yards per game. Roethlisberger was sacked four times, hit another four times according to the in-game statistics, and had to work to extend some plays either because of leaky protection or his receivers being unable to get themselves open by the time they were supposed to have gotten themselves open.

The Steelers committed penalties that lengthened Eagles possessions and that shortened their own. And as a team, none of the components or the individuals making up those components did anything to pick up the team and provide any kind of a lift that maybe could've blossomed into something more than a single big play.

There is a certain minimum level of performance associated with professional football – catching the ball, getting the field goal attempt past the line of scrimmage, tackling – and the Steelers failed to check off even those basic boxes.

Complicating things – as always happens in the NFL – are injuries, and the Steelers took a hit there, too. By the end of the game, the names on that list belonged to Ryan Shazier, Ramon Foster, Ryan Shazier, Robert Golden, Eli Rogers, and Mike Mitchell. The length of their absences will be determined and figure to vary, and none of it will do anything to help solve the overall absence of cohesion the Steelers displayed here.

The sound bites coming from the Steelers locker room contained a mix of resolve and accountability, which is what you're looking for there, but until they are presented with another opportunity and put together a winning performance those are just words. But words are going to have to do for now, because the ball doesn't go back onto the tee until next Sunday night when the Kansas City Chiefs provide the opposition.

Until then, they'll have to live with the consequences of 34-3. In terms of the AFC North, they're 2-1, which puts them behind the 3-0 Baltimore Ravens and ahead of the 1-2 Cincinnati Bengals. That's one of the things 34-3 means for them in the present, and their job now is to ensure 34-3 doesn't come to define them as the rest of this season unfolds.

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