By: Zach Metkler, GZ Sports Report Writer
After two days, much of Steelers Nation is still in pain after witnessing the worst loss for the Black & Gold since 1989. The Philadelphia Eagles made the Steelers look like a junior varsity team for most of the afternoon on their way to a 34-3 victory. Many fans instantly began to write the Steelers off, the same Steelers that for most of the offseason and the first two weeks of the season appeared to be among the favorites to make it to the Super Bowl.
It’s amazing how one single game can change the views of nearly an entire fan base.
Don’t get me wrong. The Steelers loss to the Eagles was one of the more embarrassing games you will see. The Eagles put together 426 yards of total offense, which features rookie quarterback Carson Wentz throwing for 301 yards and 2 touchdowns while also having a passer rating of 125.9 and completing 74.2% of his passes. Meanwhile, the Steelers mustered only 251 yards of total offense, which is the lowest total yards the offense has had since Week 1 of the 2013 season when the Steelers had only 194 yards of total offense against the Tennessee Titans. To make matters worse, the Steelers had a pathetic 29 yards rushing on just 10 carries, which comes as no surprise since the team trailed for virtually the entire game.
What’s more concerning than the stats is the overall lack of energy that the Steelers seem to constantly show on the field. One the first drive of the game, the Steelers looked poised to dominate all afternoon, quickly marching down the field by consistently moving the sticks. Once the Steelers got into the redzone, Ben Roethlisberger did what he always does and avoided pressure by extending plays. On the final 3rd-down of the drive, Ben was able to find receiver Markus Wheaton, in his first game of the season, in the back of the endzone. But in what would be the theme of the day for the Steelers, the ball went straight through Wheaton’s arms and fell to the ground. On the very next play, it appeared that the sure-footed Chris Boswell would kick the easy 36-yard field goal to put the Steelers up 3-0. That was until Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan got a hand on the ball and blocked the kick. It was at that moment that all momentum the Steelers had got sucked out of the team. For the remainder of the afternoon, the Steelers would only manage 3 points from a Boswell field goal. Most drives were spent with running back DeAngelo Williams getting stuffed in the backfield, the offensive line collapsing around Ben Roethlisberger (which led to 4 sacks on the day), and Big Ben returning the favor by routinely overthrowing passes, the most notable one going over the head of 6’7″ tight end Jesse James who was surprisingly open, streaking down the field. On defense, the Steelers made Wentz look like a Hall of Famer and the Eagles receivers look like a group full of Antonio Brown’s. Even Darren Sproles got in on the action and led the team in receiving yards. In the previous two games, the Steelers were also staunch against the run. However, the Eagles were able to rush for 125 yards on 30 carries. Wentz was given all day to throw as the Steelers yet again went without getting a sack, keeping their season total through the first three weeks at one.
Yes, you read the correctly. Through three weeks, the Steelers have ONE sack.
It is no surprise that Steelers fans are already writing off the team. With the aforementioned issues, the Steelers have plenty of issues that are definitely concerning. To add insult to injury (no pun intended), seven Steelers left the game with injuries against the Eagles. The Steelers struggled mightily against the Eagles in Philadelphia, a place that they historically have never performed well (considering their last victory can in Philadelphia in 1965). The defense (specifically the blitzing and the coverage) needs major adjustments that will need addressed and will give Keith Butler the biggest test of his defensive coordinator career. And don’t be mistaken: this Eagles team is better than almost anyone expected. Carson Wentz is 1000x better than almost anyone expected him to be at this point in his career. The Eagles front seven is one of the best in the league.
It is understandable that fans are concerned and panicking that the season might be lost. But hear me out.
There is no reason to worry. Not yet, at least.
To be honest, the Steelers loss was almost comical due to how uncharacteristic it was for the team. If you remember back to the 2014 season, the Steelers dropped a game to the Browns by three touchdowns.
Yeah. The Browns.
The Steelers would go on to win the AFC North division title that year in convincing fashion.
Now although that loss was not as ugly as last weeks game against the Eagles, it goes to show you that uncharacteristic losses do happen. The Steelers still boast one of the best rosters in the NFL and still have arguably the best offense as well. That offense will only improve when you consider that All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell will be back in the lineup this week now that he has served his 3-game suspension to open the season. Antonio Brown still helped carry the offense with 12 receptions and 140 yards. While his performance barely impacted the game in any way, Brown still was able to shine in an otherwise bleak performance. It might be minor, but the Steelers seem to have finally found a punter worth keeping, as Jordan Berry averaged 49.7 yards per punt with a game long 63 yard punt as well.
The Steelers young players got ample playing time as well. Artie Burns got another chance to play on the outside against top receivers and while he missed two tackles early in the game, the experience that Burns is getting is invaluable. Sean Davis also had the chance to take a crack at the starting safety spot with Robert Golden leaving the game with a hamstring injury. Davis put together a solid performance by making numerous open-field tackles and continues to show progress with his tackling technique, which was a knock on him during the draft process. If Golden misses the game against the Chiefs, it is likely that Davis will get the nod as a starter. While they have been far from perfect, the youth movement in Pittsburgh is well underway.
In short, the Steelers still have one of the best offenses in the league. Ben Roethlisberger is still a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback. Antonio Brown is still the best receiver in the league. Le’Veon Bell is still a dynamic, dual-threat running back. The Steelers still have stars on the defensive side of the ball in Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, and Ryan Shazier, who are surrounded by even more solid players like Javon Hargrave, Lawrence Timmons, Mike Mitchell, and Ross Cockrell. There are a lot of questions that have surfaced since the Steelers loss to the Eagles. But just one more thing to consider: it was just Week 3. There is still plenty of football left. And there is still plenty to be excited about with this Steelers team. One terrible game against a highly underrated Eagles team won’t be the end-all-be-all of the Steelers season. If multiple games like this start to string together, then there is reason for concern. But right now, there is no reason to start hitting the panic button.