By Teresa Varley
The Steelers were unable to get anything going on offense and as a result suffered their first loss of the season, a 15-6 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles on the road.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was under pressure all day, sacked eight times including six times in the first half. Roethlisberger completed only 13 of 25 passes for 131 yards and one interception, before being taken to the locker room before their final drive of the game after taking a beating all day.
Willie Parker never got into the flow of the game carrying the ball 13 times for only 20 yards, the first time this season he did not gain 100 yards.
"You've got to give the Eagles credit. They took it to us tonight, no doubt," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "They got after us. That is the story of this football game. They applied pressure on our quarterback, particularly on third downs. They made splash plays.
"We talked about one of the keys to this game leading up to this game was dealing with the pressure packages that they had. We didn't do a good enough job of that to win; we didn't do a good enough job at all in terms of that. We accept that. We do. All 11 men involved, it starts with me, coaches we have to do better, no doubt."
The Eagles got off to a quick start when Qunitin Demps took the opening kickoff one-yard deep and returned it 37 yards before kicker Jeff Reed brought him down.
Donovan McNabb got right to work completing a nine-yard pass to Hank Baskett, a seven-yarder to fullback Tony Hunt and then back to Baskett for another seven-yard completion. Brian Westbrook added three straight two-yard carries, but an offensive holding call gave the Eagles a second-and-18 from the Steelers 45-yard line. After a one-yard completion McNabb went deep to Jason Avant for 19 yards for a huge third-down conversion.
McNabb went back to Hunt for a five-yard gain, but the Steelers threw the challenge flag, arguing that Hunt fumbled the ball before he was down. After the review the officials agreed and ruled it a fumble, recovered by Bryant McFadden at the Steelers 20-yard line.
The Steelers took advantage of the turnover as Roethlisberger moved the ball down field with completions to Heath Miller for nine yards and Santonio Holmes for 16 and six yards. Nate Washington came up with his first reception of the season, a key 16-yard grab that gave the Steelers a first down at the Eagles 24-yard line. The Steelers weren't able to punch it into the end zone and called upon Jeff Reed for a 37-yard field goal to give them a 3-0 lead.
It was back to the air for the Eagles with McNabb mixing it up, hitting Correll Buckhalter for 11 yards, DeSean Jackson for four and five yards and Baskett for 20 yards. He remained in the groove throughout the drive, capping it with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Buckhalter to give the Eagles a 7-3 lead.
A swarming Eagles defense kept the pressure on Roethlisberger as defensive end Juqua Parker sacked him for a two-yard loss and then Brodrick Bunkley got Roethlisberger at the ankles for a sack. On third down the Eagles blitzed again and Parker got to Roethlisberger, sacking him and forcing a fumble that Bunkley came up with at the Steelers 45-yard line.
McNabb continued to be on fire, completing passes to Jackson for 18 and seven yards. The Steelers were able to dodge a bullet when on third down McNabb threw his first incomplete pass of the game, bringing on David Akers for a 31-yard field goal and 10-3 lead.
Roethlisberger was unable to escape the pressure with the Eagles coming at him from every direction and sacking him on the first two plays of the ensuing drive. Things didn't get any better. Roethlisberger was able to stay on his feet, but his deep pass to Washington in double coverage was intercepted by Asante Samuel at the Eagles 20-yard line.
The Steelers quickly returned the favor. McNabb went deep for Jackson and McFadden came up with another key defensive play with an interception at the Eagles 49-yard line.
With time ticking in the first half Roethlisberger lined up in the shotgun and hit Hines Ward for eight yards. Mewelde Moore got the first down with a six-yard carry up the middle. The pressure on Roethlisberger ensued as linebacker Omar Gaither came right up the middle for a seven-yard sack. Roethlisberger came back with a six-yard completion to Washington to the Eagles 36-yard line. The Steelers were able to stay in the game when Reed hit a career-long 53-yard field goal, sending them into halftime down just 10-6.
The Steelers were besieged by errors on their opening drive of the second half. A delay of game penalty was followed by a false start and an illegal forward pass, which brought a loss of down and forced the first punt of the game.
McNabb remained in the locker room for the start of the second half with a reported chest injury, replaced behind center by Kevin Kolb. Kolb's first pass of the game was intended for L.J. Smith but intercepted by Troy Polamalu at the Eagles 49-yard line.
The offense was unable to take advantage of the gift they were given as the Eagles shut them down and forced a quick three-and-out.
Kolb came back out for the Eagles on their next drive and completed passes to Jackson and Baskett, but it wasn't long until McNabb returned to the field. The defense stepped it up and for the forced the Eagles to punt for the first time.
Neither team was able to get anything going on offense for the majority of the third and fourth quarters, with the team's exchanging punts throughout.
It would be the Eagles, though, who would benefit from the strong defensive play. The Steelers were pinned back on their own six-yard where Parker was knocked for a two-yard loss. On second down Carey Davis gained one yard, but wasn't able to give them any breathing room. On third-and-11 Roethlisberger's protection collapsed and he had to get rid of the ball from the end zone. The play was ruled intentional grounding, giving the Eagles a safety and extending the lead to 12-6.
The Eagles had a chance to take control of the game by getting the ball right back, but the Steelers defense had their say in the matter and forced another punt.
It wouldn't be enough though. The Eagles were relentless on pressure on the next drive forcing Roethlisberger to throw the ball away several times before Brian Dawkins got to him for a five-yard sack and forced fumble, which he recovered at the Steelers 18-yard line.
The Eagles were able to make it count when Akers hit a 31-yard field goal to put them ahead 15-6.
Byron Leftwich came into the game after a shaken-up Roethlisberger was taken to the locker room. Leftwich was able to get the offense going, but it was too little, too late. On fourth down from the Eagles 13-yard line Leftwich's pass for Holmes was short and the Eagles took over on downs and ran out the clock.
Tomlin on Ben Roethlisberger: "I think he is going to be fine. He is battered a little bit. He got hit quite a bit tonight. I will have more information in regards to that in the morning. At this point it doesn't appear to be anything long term. He got hit on the hand. The x-rays were negative. But to get hit like that – we will see where he is in the morning.
Tomlin on Casey Hampton: "Casey hurt his groin. He had been dealing with that early in the week. We'll see where he is. Usually when a guy has an injury like that and something happens in the course of a game it's going to be a while. We're not going to speculate. We'll see where he is after we get him examined in the morning."