This one against the Eagles doesn't count in the standings any more than the last one against the Redskins, but that should not detract from the fact the Steelers took a step forward as a team on Thursday night at Heinz Field.
At the core of their loss to the Redskins in the preseason opener was an exhibition of poor blocking and shoddy tackling, and when the most basic of fundamentals go bad everything else about a team's performance is sure to follow.
In the immediate aftermath of that 16-7 loss to the Redskins, Coach Mike Tomlin was blunt in his assessment. "That team was better prepared tonight than us, and they showed it. We accept that, and I look forward to this group responding to what we put out there tonight and understand that we have a lot of ground to cover. Such is life. I'll expect these guys to respond accordingly, and we'll go back to work, we'll assess this performance and it needs to be better quickly."
The response Tomlin got was a 24-14 win over the Eagles that was not as close as the final score might indicate.
It's always a good sign when a team heeds its coach's words and puts them into action, and that's precisely what the Steelers did in the days between the Redskins at FedEx Field and the Eagles at Heinz Field. Just as was the case against the Redskins, the Steelers didn't put in a game plan for the Eagles, but their players did a much better job of executing the fundamentals of the sport, and the bounce-back characteristic is one every team wants to develop.
There are a lot of reasons why the outcome on Thursday night at Heinz Field was what it was, and here are two: the Steelers were plus-5 in turnover ratio; and Ben Roethlisberger went 5-for-5 for 101 yards and two touchdowns on third down against the Eagles defensive starters, while Michael Vick was 0-for-2 with an interception on third down against the Steelers defensive starters.
In six days that included the breaking of training camp, the Steelers responded to a lackluster performance by improving every aspect of theirs, and in the situations that can chart the course of a game and then determine its outcome they were dominant.
Those are things a good team does, and the performance against the Eagles is an indication the 2011 Steelers are on their way to becoming one.