Pittsburgh Steelers: The Good, Bad and Ugly Against the Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday afternoon's Keystone state showdown was a nail-biter to say the least. An uninspiring first half was followed by a second half full of thrills and much better play by both of the Pennsylvania teams.
In the end, it was the Steelers who snuck away with a 16-14 victory, their second of the year.
So let's take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from Sunday's home win.
Coming into the game ranked 31st in the league in rushing yards per game isn't something the Steelers offense was particularly proud of. Getting starting running back Rashard Mendenhall was apparently just what the team needed.
In a limited role, Mendenhall ran for 81 yards and a touchdown on only 14 carries and played like a man possessed. He did all of this just nine months following major knee surgery.
It remains to be seen how long it will be before Mendenhall returns to a full work load, but if Sunday was any indication of what we can expect, Steeler fans should be pretty excited.
The Offensive Line
Against what was supposed to be the best pass-rushing defensive line in the game, the Steelers' offensive line should have been beaten up and down the field. But they stepped up in a big way, allowing hardly any pressure on Ben Roethlisberger and not giving up a single sack.
It's a major improvement for a unit that hasn't played particularly well and has been looked down upon by almost everyone. If they can play like this every week, Opposing defenses need to be on alert.
For years, Steelers fans have been begging for linebacker Lawrence Timmons to step it up and become the player he has the talent to be. On Sunday, he took a big step toward that.
Timmons played as well as anybody against the Eagles and pretty much lived in the opponents' backfield. The sixth-year man out of Florida State finished the game with nine total tackles and forced one of three fumbles by the Steelers' defense.
Hopefully this game was a coming out party for the linebacker as the team needs him to step up and become a leader. One game is nice, let's see if he can string a few together.
Maybe no unit on the Steelers needed a comeback more than the defense. After blowing a 10-point fourth quarter lead in Oakland, the future of the defense looked pretty unclear.
The bye week must have been a big help.
The defense looked back to form, holding the Eagles offense to 14 points (all in the second half) and forcing two turnovers, one that took points right off the board for Philadelphia. The pass rush also looked to be back as the team sacked Michael Vick three times and was constantly in his face.
One question remains: who is the leader of this defense? Timmons played very well as did fellow linebacker Larry Foote, but we'll have to wait to see if the defense is back, or just played one hell of a game.
More Defensive Injuries
Just when it looked like Pittsburgh would finally be at full strength on the defensive side of the ball, the football gods frowned upon the team once again.
Troy Polamalu re-injured his calf on what seemed to be a routine play and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley left Sunday's contest with a hamstring injury.
Polamalu and Woodley's injuries didn't seem to hamper the Steelers' D too much as they held an explosive Eagles offense under 250 total yards and just 14 points, but you'd like to see how well they could play with a full deck.
Polamalu has already been ruled out for Thursday Night's game at Tennessee while Woodley is listed as doubtful.
Offense Left Points on the Field
So far in 2012, there hasn't been much to complain about when it came to the Steelers' offense. But that wasn't the case on Sunday.
The Steelers offense may have played in a tight game, but that was probably because they left some big plays on the field.
Those plays include three that should have been touchdowns. Antonio Brown dropped a pass in the endzone that hit him in the hands. Ben Roethlisberger missed an open Heath Miller at the 5-yard line where he could have scored. And Jerricho Cotchery tripped over his own feet on the 2-yard line.
Pittsburgh came away with just six points from these three possessions. It didn't come back to hurt them so they'll get a pass this week, but they can't play like that every game and expect to win. In this league, points are at a premium and you have to score when the opportunity rises.
Penalties Cause Problems...Again
Heading into the Week 4 bye and coming off a devastating loss in Oakland where the team committed ten penalties, one would think the Steelers would take their two weeks to try and resolve that problem, right?
The Steelers came out against the Eagles and had a very similar performance penalty-wise, getting flagged nine times for over 100 yards including the second drive of the game where the team was flagged five times (four accepted).
It isn't like Pittsburgh to see so much laundry on the field, but this year appears to be different. The penalty situation needs to be corrected or it could come back to bite them.
Catch the Ball
I mentioned before that Antonio Brown dropped a ball in the endzone that would have been a touchdown for the Steelers instead of a punt. But other than that, Brown had a really nice game.
Uncharacteristically, the Steelers receiving corps had a lot of trouble catching the ball on Sunday. Especially Mike Wallace.
Wallace was targeted eight times during the game, but finished with just two catches for 17 yards and drops had a lot to do with that. The speedster had at least three drops Sunday afternoon.
It wasn't just Wallace who couldn't catch the ball, but he was the most noticeable. The receivers didn't do a whole lot to help their quarterback in this game. I don't expect this to be a major problem going forward, but it'll be something to keep your eye on.
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