- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are some observations:
I really liked the Steelers' focus and energy. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t like the effort from his players in last week’s preseason loss to the Washington Redskins. Therefore, this game had more of a regular-season feel in the first half. Pittsburgh's starters jumped on the Eagles' starters by taking a two-touchdown lead early in the second quarter. Pittsburgh led 21-0 at halftime. The Steelers probably wouldn’t admit it, but I think the fact Philadelphia was on the preseason schedule this week helped. The Eagles are getting a lot of “Dream Team” and “Super Bowl” hype. The reigning AFC champion Steelers usually like to prove a point in those type of situations -- even if it's just the preseason.
Offensively, the Steelers looked potent. They had no problem putting together back-to-back, 14-play touchdown drives on their first two possessions. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finished 8-for-12 passing for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 140.6 passer rating against a star-studded Eagles secondary. Roethlisberger kept plays alive and connected on a pair of touchdown passes to Antonio Brown and Hines Ward. Apparently, both receivers have been working on their end zone dances.
It was good to see a healthy Troy Polamalu back in the lineup. The Steelers Pro Bowl safety had an Achilles injury last year and hasn’t played 100-percent healthy in a game since November 2010. But Polamalu’s acceleration and playmaking was back. He had two pass defenses and picked off Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and returned it 36 yards.
Pittsburgh’s pass defense baffled Vick Thursday night. With Polamalu in the lineup this week, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was able to throw some coverages and blitzes at Vick that forced some questionable throws. Vick was picked off three times, once each by Polamalu, safety Ryan Clark and cornerback Keenan Lewis.
It was a successful Steelers debut for receiver Jerricho Cotchery. The free-agent signing led Pittsburgh with two receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown. Cotchery looks comfortable in the slot already. He adds quality depth and should be able to contribute early.
There wasn’t much bad about this game, but Pittsburgh's offensive line did get banged-up. Offensive tackle Jonathan Scott suffered a knee injury on the first drive and didn’t return. Rookie second-round draft pick Marcus Gilbert also suffered a knee injury. Gilbert said via Twitter Thursday night that he will be fine. Scott's injury may be more worrisome. Pittsburgh’s offensive line is thin to begin with and cannot afford too many injuries.
Anything additional on the "bad" side would be nitpicking. The Steelers put together a great team performance. It's just what you want to see in the second preseason game against another Super Bowl contender.