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'You're gonna have to whup a man's butt'

There's not much mystery associated with how the Eagles' defense will come at the Steelers' offense, particularly as it relates to Philadelphia's defensive line.

Getting those defensive lineman blocked is another matter entirely.

"You know where they're gonna line up," Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner offered after practice today. "You're gonna have to whup a man's butt, to be quite honest, so that challenge is already out there.

"You'll know where they'll be. I'll be excited to watch our guys attempt to block 'em because I think they'll do a good job."

Philadelphia's four-man front features depth as well as relentlessness. The Eagles had seven defensive lineman take between 32 and 77 percent of the defensive snaps in last Sunday night's 25-20 win at San Francisco.

And that despite the presence of veteran defensive end Vinny Curry on the Reserve/Injured list.

The Eagles, in Fichtner's estimation, do what a defense coordinated by Jim Schwartz does, what such units have always endeavored to do whether they were representing Tennessee, Detroit, Buffalo or Philadelphia.

The Steelers prepare for the Week 5 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles

Recognition shouldn't be an issue on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.

But that likely won't make opening holes in the running game or keeping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger protected in the pocket any easier to achieve.

"I don't think there's any doubt about their D-line being very good," Fichtner continued. "They've been solid for a long time and they keep adding pieces to that puzzle. They're gonna run ya two-deep at the position, it's been a signature of Coach Schwartz.

"It's interesting because we've done a lot of business against Coach Schwartz over the years. His defensive line is always one of those penetrating, physical, pass rush. It's one of the few teams in the league that can rush four. They're leading the league in sacks and they generally rush four."

The Eagles have amassed 13 of their NFL-best 17 sacks in their last two games (eight in a 23-23 tie with Cincinnati and five in the win at San Francisco).

One of the new pieces this year is former Steelers nose tackle Javon Hargrave, who missed Philadelphia's opener against Washington (pec/hamstring) but has seen his snap count rise in each successive week (from 25 to 32 to 42).

Fichtner will renew hostilities with Schwartz in a matchup that figures to resemble "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots" more than it will a game of chess.

One potential counter acknowledged by Fichtner against Philadelphia's depth would be tempo (the Eagles can't run fresh defensive linemen into the game if the Steelers are running the no-huddle).

But in the running game and the passing game, it'll be about execution individually and collectively much more than it will approach.

"Structurally Coach Schwartz has always been very sound," Fichtner noted. "They don't ask them to do a lot of different things so they do what they do really well. It's gonna come down to you're gonna have to win your 1-on-1 if they're in their man (-to-man coverage). You're gonna have to be at the right spot at the right time and read it the right way, protect against a really solid four-man rush and execute the passing game.

"They're not gonna just give up busted-coverage plays. They're not gonna to be negligent when it comes to protecting against the deep ball but that can't stop us from attempting to push the ball down the field.

"I don't know that we would change anything. There's issues to have to deal with and if you change things it would be structurally. Maybe you might attempt to run a run one way as opposed to another way based on where someone would be. But man, a lot of confidence in our guys. The challenge is there. A couple weeks ago it was (Houston defensive end J.J.) Watt, and 'you gotta deal with Watt.' This week you got a bunch of those guys.

"Lotta confidence in our guys."

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