Last night we witnessed a battle of two Pennsylvanian sides who are among the favourites to meet in Indianapolis in February. Granted it was only preseason but what we saw from both teams was very interesting.
The Eagles played uncharacteristically poor having just come off a win against the Ravens, and the Steelers rallied after a dismal first week performance that saw Rex Grossman and the Redskins take the spoils at the FedEx.
So what can we take away from this loss?
Ben Roethlisberger seemed to use his experience to easily dissect a young defense, exposing some gaping holes in a side that on paper is perceived as almost impenetrable.
It was also a tough night for Eagles quarterback Michael Vick – he completed eight passes for 47 yards, but three of these were to the Steelers defense. Three interceptions could be seen as a little worrying, but then again, with preseason comes experimentation. With a lot of varied receivers, Vick still has to gel with a lot of these players to get the timing perfect. Clearly the lockout has hindered this preparation.
Let’s not forget last year’s preseason though, when Vick’s first pass against the Bengals was picked off and he looked far from ready. Everyone started doubting him as a backup, let alone a starter, but he surpassed even the wildest of expectations to put together a career-year.
After last night it is easy to pick faults in the Eagles’ performance.
The defense seemed in disarray, causing a few needless penalties, and providing Ben Roethlisberger with far too much time to connect with his receivers. Roethlisberger is hardly the QB that needs a second invitation.
Nate Allen was also exposed on several occasions in the secondary, and Rashard Mendenhall seemed to pin back a defensive line backed up by rookie Casey Matthews for the majority of the first half.
Is it just because Vick was up against a superior defense? Not at all, Vick has proven against some of the biggest teams in the NFL that he can attack any defense with calculated precision.
But could it all been seen as a tactic? Maybe. I’m clutching at straws to answer last night’s performance but as I previously mentioned, the two sides could meet again to battle it out in the Super Bowl.
With the Eagles looking so lacklustre, was it a clever ploy not to give anything away? Maybe Andy Reid is holding all his cards close to his chest. A lot of people are watching the Eagles right now and expecting them to light up the stage, but why would you want to give away all your trump cards for the season ahead?
Does the loss mean much anyway? Well no, not really.
A lot of the players obviously had an off day, and it gives Andy Reid the chance to iron out any creases before the season starts with a visit to the St Louis Rams.
You want to see mistakes, and get them out of your system before they become costly. Winning games in preseason obviously doesn’t mean much, the Detroit Lions won all four in 2008, and they ended up 0-16.
Besides, it’s not like the Steelers are a bad side anyway. I would be more concerned losing to a team like the Redskins. Obviously many people will think that as an Eagles fan I would never say anything good about their bitter rivals.
But taking a completely impartial view, they look like they could really struggle this year. With a weak offensive line and a very average group of quarterbacks in Washington, the franchise looks as though they are in for a pummelling in what is sure to be a fiercely contested NFC East.
On a positive note, what about the performance of Mike Kafka?
Admittedly he has had longer to learn the offense than 2nd string QB Vince Young, but so far he is looking a lot sharper than the former Titans signal caller, raising the question as to whether he should be bumped up to the number two spot instead.