NFL Nation: 2014 NFL Preseason Week 4 PIT at PHI


PHILADELPHA -- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin suddenly has a lot more to worry about than his top two running backs facing citations for marijuana possession.

The Steelers' third preseason game turned out about as well as the infamous car ride that landed Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount in trouble and in unflattering headlines a day earlier.

The Steelers struggled in every aspect Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field, and they were dominated when it mattered most in a 31-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles, crisper and more physical than their in-state rivals, raced to a 17-0 halftime lead when starters from both teams were in the game, and it could have been worse for the Steelers.

Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles just missed on a few throws that would have netted big gains, but he still completed 19 of 29 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown before calling it a night.

Ben Roethlisberger played two series in the second half, and he salvaged something from an otherwise forgettable night by leading a six-play, 79-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter.

Roethlisberger, who struggled with his accuracy and threw a bad interception in the first half, capped the drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass to tight end Heath Miller.

That march wasn't nearly enough to offset the ineptitude that the Steelers showed at times in all three phases of the game.

Some other thoughts from the Steelers' third preseason game:
  • Blount's play, ironically enough, was among the few positives that the Steelers could take away from the thorough beating they received from the Eagles. Blount, who alternated with Bell, rushed for 32 yards on seven carries and showed the nifty footwork that is unique for such a big back. Bell started the game and Blount also played on the first series.
  • If the preseason is any indication, the Steelers still haven't fixed a run defense that yielded 115.6 rushing yards per game last season. The Eagles repeatedly gashed the Steelers in the running game even though LeSean McCoy played just two series because of a thumb injury. The Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, but Tomlin won't be happy with how they pushed around the Steelers. Defensive end Brett Keisel, who re-signed with the Steelers on Wednesday but didn't play against the Eagles, should help the defensive line. Improvement must be made across the board.
  • Wide receiver Justin Brown has faded and his hold on a roster spot should be tenuous after he failed to catch a pass despite getting extended work with the first-team offense as the No. 3 wide receiver. Brown, playing in place of Lance Moore, drew Roethlisberger's ire early when he ran a comeback route and had a pass sail over his head. The 2013 sixth-round pick was later flagged for offensive holding. In three preseason games Brown has three catches for 15 yards. Darrius Heyward-Bey, meanwhile, caught a 33-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
  • The Steelers didn't sustain a lot of injuries, but the two that were announced are worth watching. Linebacker Sean Spence left the game in the third quarter with a right knee injury and outside linebacker Jason Worilds didn't play again after hurting his right knee in the same quarter. Worilds may have been the Steelers' best defensive player before getting hurt. Of course that's not saying much considering that the Steelers gave up just under 500 yards of total offense.
  • There has to be some concern over Shaun Suisham, who has already missed two field goals in the preseason, the same number he missed all of last season. The 10th-year veteran has also missed a 33-yard extra point in preseason play.

Injuries can happen at any time to any player, and if the Philadelphia Eagles lose running back LeSean McCoy for an extended period their season would look a lot different without last season's league leading rusher.

After scoring on a 22-yard screen pass in the Eagles’ 31-21 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, McCoy went to the locker room for X-rays on his thumb, which were negative. That was the good news for McCoy, who did not return and should see his next action in the Eagles’ regular-season opener.

The better news, however, was that the Eagles did not change their plan. They ran the ball with Darren Sproles, one of their bigger offseason acquisitions, and Matthew Tucker in McCoy’s absence. They combined for 48 yards on 10 first-half carries, and Sproles had a 1-yard rushing touchdown. The Eagles finished with 182 yards on the ground.

Here are some other thoughts on the Eagles’ third preseason game of the year:
  • The Eagles allowed 76 points in their first two preseason games. The defense was much better against Ben Roethlisberger & Co., keeping them off the scoreboard in the first half with the starters on the field. Nolan Carroll had an interception after a Mychal Kendricks pressure. After Nick Foles was intercepted, the defense responded with a three-and-out highlighted by a Malcolm Jenkins' pass breakup. The pressure was better with first-round disappointment Brandon Graham coming up with a sack and surprise first-round pick Marcus Smith coming up with some plays early in the third quarter.
  • Not only did the Eagles appear to avoid a scare with the McCoy injury, it looks like they got some good news on Jeremy Maclin as well. In the second quarter Maclin appeared to hyperextend his right knee while making a cut and went to the ground. He missed last season with a torn right anterior cruciate ligament. Maclin, however, returned in the next series and caught a 9-yard pass. He caught six passes for 43 yards in the first half.
  • Foles had a ridiculous 27-touchdown, two-interception season in 2013. He has been intercepted three times in the preseason, but with tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek he will have the chance to make some easy throws in the middle of the field. The Eagles used the play-action a number of times to get the ball down the seams to his tight end. Celek had two catches for 41 yards and Ertz had two for 24 yards.
  • Philadelphia hopes Mark Sanchez never has to play because Foles is effective and healthy, but the former New York Jets quarterback continued his solid preseason. Sanchez directed two touchdown drives in the third quarter, completing 7 of 9 passes for 85 yards. In the preseason he has completed 25 of 31 passes for 281 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He looks healthy and much more decisive under Chip Kelly’s tutelage.
  • The Eagles close out the preseason Aug. 28 against the New York Jets.

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