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Eagles vs. Steelers: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2016 Preseason

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2016

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 18:  Nolan Carroll #22 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs back an interception for a touchdown in the first half during a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 18, 2016 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Sometimes, NFL preseason games are displays of football brilliance that make fans long for the start of the regular season. That was far from the case when the Philadelphia Eagles squared off against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday.

The Eagles earned a 17-0 victory, but the two teams combined for zero touchdown passes, five turnovers and 13 punts in a sloppy contest. Landry Jones, who started at quarterback for the Steelers, threw four interceptions in the first half, one of which Nolan Carroll returned for a touchdown that proved to be the game-winning score.

Neither team cracked 300 total yards on offense (298 for Philadelphia and 207 for Pittsburgh), but Eagles punter Donnie Jones accounted for 353 yards on his seven punts.

The Steelers started with the ball, but Jeff Skversky of ABC 6 in Philadelphia noted the Eagles didn't have to worry about many of Pittsburgh's first-team playmakers doing any damage Thursday:

Jeff Skversky 6abc @JeffSkversky

#Eagles D will NOT Face Steelers Stars: QB Ben Roethlisberger WR Antonio Brown RB Le’Veon Bell RB DeAngelo Williams https://t.co/XhGCTNdRVk

It was clear Ben Roethlisberger and Co. were missing when Jones threw a pick-six on Pittsburgh's second possession. Carroll intercepted Jones' pass to Sammie Coates and ran it back 38 yards to help Philadelphia open a 7-0 lead.

The NFL shared the replay:

NFL @NFL

🚨🚨PICK-6 ALERT!🚨🚨 @Eagles CB Nolan Carroll takes Landry Jones' pass to the HOUSE. #PHIvsPIT https://t.co/u5DQkcby0m

Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer expected Carroll to remain with the first-team defense, and Thursday's interception was an indication of the cornerback's ability to impact the game.

The 7-0 lead held through the first quarter, as Jones threw another interception on the ensuing possession after leading the Steelers inside the Eagles' 10-yard line. This time, it was veteran defensive back Malcolm Jenkins who notched the pick on a deflected fade route.

The theme continued late in the second quarter, when the Eagles picked Jones off for the third time. Aaron Grymes tallied the interception in the back corner of the end zone, and Reuben Frank of CSN Philly pointed out the turnovers were business as usual for the defense:

Reuben Frank @RoobNBCS

Another Eagles pick. Great coverage by Grymes. That's 3 INTs tonight and eight takeaways by the Eagles - seven defensively - in 6 quarters.

However, the Philadelphia offense wasn't effective, either, notching a paltry three points in the first half behind quarterback Sam Bradford. The turnovers were the difference, and the Eagles took the 10-0 advantage into the locker room after Jaylen Watkins picked Jones off on Pittsburgh's final possession of the second quarter.

NFL Total Access called it a "rough half" for Jones in something of an understatement:

NFL Total Access @NFLTotalAccess

Rough first half for Landry Jones. Eagles lead 10-0 at halftime. #PHIvsPIT https://t.co/ygBh9R7SWa

As soon as Chase Daniel came in for the Eagles, their offensive fortunes changed. He led them 87 yards downfield on the first possession of the second half, and Kenjon Barner finished the drive with a five-yard touchdown run to help make it 17-0. However, wide receiver Paul Turner made the head-turning play of the drive, as the NFL shared:

NFL @NFL

🚨🚨 CRAZY ONE-HAND GRAB ALERT 🚨🚨 Ladies and Gentlemen, meet @eagles rookie Paul Turner. WOW. #PHIvsPIT https://t.co/6fGfgoJipT

The backups on the two offenses slowed from there, and the Eagles took their 17-0 lead into the final quarter. Quarterback Dustin Vaughan didn't turn the ball over for Pittsburgh, but he wasn't much of a threat downfield, either. His first three completions went for a mere 20 yards against Philadelphia's dialed-in defense.

Vaughan was sacked four times and finished 7-of-13 for 67 yards.

The punt-fest continued in the fourth quarter as the two offenses relied on players who are unlikely to see meaningful snaps in the regular season. The Steelers' punt with less than five minutes remaining in the contest marked the seventh straight punt for the two teams after Philadelphia's lengthy touchdown drive to start the second half.

The Eagles broke the streak late in the game when Montell Garner forced a fumble and Doran Grant picked it up for Pittsburgh. However, the Steelers didn't do anything with the subsequent possession, as Vaughan's deep pass on fourth down fell incomplete, clinching the 17-0 Philadelphia victory.

             

What's Next?

The Steelers will hit the road to face the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 26.

The defense gets to face an offense that ranked second in the league in total yards and eighth in points per game last year. The third preseason contest is typically the closest thing to a dress rehearsal for the regular season, so expect New Orleans to open things up a bit on the offensive end. The Steelers will likely play more of their offensive weapons as well.

The Eagles will travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts on Aug. 27.

Their third preseason contest will come against a quality opponent that reached the postseason in three of the last four years. The Philadelphia defense looked the part Thursday, but the offense will need to make strides if it wants to garner more confidence heading into the regular season.

Postgame Reaction

After the win, Bradford said he wasn’t particularly concerned that the Eagles' offensive starters didn’t find the end zone, per Skversky.

Fortunately for Bradford and the offense, the Philadelphia defense did thanks to Carroll’s interception return. Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice noted “Carroll said a number of teams—Rams, Cowboys, Dolphins and others—passed on him” as a free agent because of concerns about his ankle.

Their loss appears to be Philadelphia’s gain at this point.

On the other side, Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review talked to sources in the Steelers’ locker room and said it “seems like only one interception was [Jones’] fault and that was a nice play on [a] deep pass.”

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey discussed the offensive performance, per Kaboly: “We had a couple of turnovers on offense. We will look at the film and see how we can adjust it. But I think overall we had great protection and some good runs.”

The runs and protection may have been effective at times, but the true silver lining for Pittsburgh is the fact its starters will likely be much better during the regular season than the backups were on Thursday.

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