STEELERS 16, EAGLES 14
Steelers' record: 2-2
One year ago: 2-2
Series record (including playoffs): Eagles lead, 47-27-3
The mis-steps in Denver and in Oakland left the Steelers in a bit of an early hole in an AFC North Division that is looking to include two serious contenders for them this season. Through the first four weeks of the season, the Ravens and Bengals both were 3-1 and finding ways to win games in spite of their flaws. This time of the year is all about being able to win often enough to put yourself into position to be playing meaningful games later in the season. To do that, the Steelers needed to avoid falling to 1-3.
So often in games matching two good teams, it is a squandered opportunity early that can have a significant impact. The Eagles got the better of the play at the start of this game, with three first downs on their opening offensive possession and then getting the Steelers off the field on theirs with a three-and-out. The second time the Eagles got the ball, Michael Vick directed the offense to a first-and-goal at the Steelers 3-yard line, but on that play – a designed run – Ryan Clark came up and forced him to fumble and Larry Foote recovered the ball in the end zone to keep the Steelers from falling behind early.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
In each of their first three games, the Steelers were out-rushed by the opponent, and they came into this one against the Eagles averaging 65.0 yards rushing per game and 2.6 yards per carry. The Steelers out-rushed the Eagles, 136-78, and they finished with a per carry average of 4.4 to Philadelphia's 3.4.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* On a first-and-goal, from the Steelers 3-yard line midway through the first quarter, Michael Vick took the shotgun snap and on a designed run he attacked the left side of the Steelers defense. Safety Ryan Clark came up and stripped the ball loose, and Larry Foote recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
- On the Steelers' touchdown drive in the first half, Ben Roethlisberger and then Rashard Mendenhall took advantage of Eagles rookie OLB Mychal Kendricks. After scrambling out of the pocket, Roethlisberger moved Kendricks out of his path by faking a pitch on a run that gained 9 yards; and Mendenhall made Kendrick miss him at the start of his 13-yard touchdown run.
- The sack went to Jason Worilds and because it came on a third down it got the Steelers off the field, but the opportunity to make the play was created by Ryan Clark. Coming off the corner on a blitz, Clark occupied running back LeSean McCoy and that helped create the lane for Worilds to get his shot at Vick.
- Coming into the game with five sacks in their first three games, the Steelers got consistent pressure on Michael Vick and had three sacks through the first three quarters.
- Three players in uniform for the Steelers vs. the Eagles were seeing their first game action of the year including the preseason, with those being James Harrison, Rashard Mendenhall and Stevenson Sylvester. Conditioning was not an issue with any of them, and both Mendenhall and Harrison showed up big on the final stats sheet.
- Coach Mike Tomlin believes that what differentiates franchise quarterbacks from their peers in the NFL is the ability to bring their teams back to victory late in games. On the final drive against the Eagles that ended with Shaun Suisham's deciding 34-yard field goal, Ben Roethlisberger completed 4-of-5 for 50 yards. He converted a third-and-12 with a 20-yard pass to Antonio Brown and a third-and-4 with a 7-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders.
- After making all three of his field goal attempts vs. the Eagles, Shaun Suisham is now 8-for-8 on the season.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* The Steelers' opening offensive possession of the game was a rough one, to be sure. After a first-down run by Rashard Mendenhall was stuffed for no gain, and then Maurkice Pouncey's shotgun snap to Ben Roethlisberger was high and wide and was recovered by Max Starks after a 6-yard loss. On third down, a pass to Heath Miller gained 1 yard, and the Steelers punted.
- What appeared to be a takeaway for the Steelers turned into a 9-yard gain by Michael Vick on a scramble. Originally ruled a fumble by the officials on the field, the play was automatically reviewed and overturned because it was ruled that Vick was down by contact.
- Penalties, penalties, penalties. Coming into the game, the Steelers were a highly penalized team, and so it continued in the first quarter against the Eagles. Here is the impact of a couple of those: a 24-yard run by Rashard Mendenhall was nullified by an illegal formation penalty on Mike Wallace, so instead of a first-and-10 at the Eagles 30-yard line the Steelers had a second-and-15 at their own 41-yard line; and then on the punt that ultimately followed, an illegal procedure penalty on DeMarcus Van Dyke allowed the Eagles to take possession at their 25-yard line instead of on the 11-yard line.
- Good thing the regular officials are back? The first quarter ended with eight penalties being assessed on the teams – five on the Steelers and three on the Eagles – with another penalty on the Steelers being declined. The first half ended with 10 penalties having been assessed – five on each team. The game ended with five penalties marked off vs. the Eagles and nine, for 106 yards, marked off vs. the Steelers.
- On a first-and-10 from the Philadelphia 33-yard line in the final minute of the first half, Ben Roethlisberger dropped a pass into Antonio Brown's hands in the end zone, but Brown dropped the ball.
- Before the first half ended, the Steelers had two other prime opportunities to score their second touchdown, but circumstances conspired to prevent the score both times. On the first of those, Antonio Brown appeared to have a chance to take a short pass into the end zone, but he cut back toward the middle of the field and was tackled by safety Kurt Coleman. On the second, Jerricho Cotchery caught a slant pass and had a clear path to the end zone only to trip over his own feet. The Steelers ultimately settled for a field goal and a 10-0 halftime lead.
- Still more penalties in the second half. The Eagles' first touchdown drive was aided by two major penalties called on the Steelers – 15 yards on Ryan Clark for unnecessary roughness on Brent Celek after he caught a pass, and another 15 yard penalty on Ryan Mundy for a hit to the helmet on Jeremy Macklin after he caught a pass. Mundy hit Macklin with his shoulder, and the flag didn't come out until Macklin was slow to get up after the hit.
STEELERS FINALLY HAVE 7 HEALTHY SCRATCHES
During the first three weeks of this 2012 regular season, the pregame announcement of the Steelers' inactive list was a reflection of the team's injury report. But that changed on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, when none of the 53 players on the roster were unavailable because of injury.
For the first time in 2012, James Harrison, Rashard Mendenhall and Stevenson Sylvester were in uniform for a game, and Troy Polamalu also was able to return after missing the previous two games with a calf injury.
Mendenhall was able to return to the field just nine months and six days after tearing his ACL at the end of the first quarter in Cleveland on Jan. 1. He had been working his way back steadily and has been a full participant in practice for close to a month.
Last week marked the first time since training camp opened that Harrison was able to string successive days of practice together.
Inactive for the game were QB Charlie Batch, FS Robert Golden, RB Jonathan Dwyer, OLB Adrian Robinson, G Kelvin Beachum, ILB Brandon Johnson, NT Alameda Ta'amu.