In a Thursday night game that was billed to be the dress rehearsal for regular season play, the Pittsburgh Steelers entered Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia to face an Eagles team that outperformed them in nearly every aspect. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, in his post-game press conference, said that the evening's flat performance against the Eagles was a "snap-shot of the three units working together," - offense, defense and special teams. What was shown on the field Thursday night was more like a horrible Polaroid and something that the Steelers will have to immediately address before their fourth and final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field next week.
The Steelers looked miserable nearly the entire game with a few highlights thrown in every once in a while. Beaten in all three phases, miscommunication and frustration got the better part of the team and allowed Nick Foles and the Eagles to hand them a beating that looked a lot worse in person than the final score showed. While some questioned whether the marijuana charges against Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount played a part in the distracted appearance of the Steelers, Blount's time in the game at running back at least appeared to show that he intends on being a bruiser, possibly using his mistake for personal motivation. Even veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger looked rattled, often using hand signals to communicate plays in situations that, at this time of the preseason, his teammates on offense should know. The fact that Roethlisberger and tight end Heath Miller had times where they could not find each other was almost disturbing.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly brought in an explosive offense, but his defense fared well against the struggling Steelers offense as well. Not only did Foles pick apart the Steelers' defensive secondary, but a demoralizing back-to-back offensive effort by Mark Sanchez made it look all too easy. It was enough to have Troy Polamalu and Cameron Heyward visibly upset, and rightly so. The Steelers' first-team defense could not stuff the run and their defensive backfield wasn't just hampered by quick receivers and plays they were completely faked-out by, but by enough penalty flags to decorate the locker rooms of both teams.
Going down the list of what he felt was disappointing about the defense, Heyward said, "We're just not following our assignments. And that's me included. There's no pointing fingers right now." Heyward called the game a "soup kitchen" of what could and did go wrong. "Missed tackles, execution, a lack of energy. On top of that we played terrible..."
"I'm not going to predict the future whether we are ready or not," said Polamalu after the game. "If you look at today's performance, you know you could say that we definitely are not...There's a lot of room for improvement. Whether or not we improve time will only tell." Polamalu came away with the lone defensive turnover of the night, an interception that could have translated to points but was squandered by a missed Shaun Suisham field goal.
Possibly the most unexpected stat to stand out between the Steelers and the Eagles was the number of times officials littered the field with penalty flags. The NFL may have made the policies very clear about what would and would not be called, but 13 penalties for 92 yards against the Steelers and 14 for 110 yards against the Eagles made already irritated fans nearly foam at the mouth on social media. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's name was nearly trending on Twitter due to what fans call an overzealous league policy to crack down on what many feel are minor on-field incidences; a hand on a jersey that doesn't disrupt the play of action being near the top of the list.
Steelers Game Injuries
[LB] Sean Spence - PCL to his right knee. [LB] Jason Worilds - knee injury. [DE] Cam Heyward - ankle sprain.