Let me start this off by saying that I know this is the first thing I've written in a few weeks. Needed a short hiatus from the blog. Work is killing me and I haven't had energy for much of anything extra. I go on vacation next week though so I should be back to doing this regularly. Now that the public service announcement is over, let's get to the game....
Despite the difference in records, these two teams came into the game in similar situations. A bounce here and a bounce there and both these teams could be in very different positions in the standings. Both teams came in with more questions than answers and both teams left the game in the exact same situation as they entered in that regard.
Steelers Offense vs. Eagles Defense: Rashard Mendenhall completed his really impressive return from a significant knee injury but no one really knew how he would look or how he would be used. One thing that nobody expected was for him to be the best offensive player on the field for the Steelers in this game. He ran hard. He ran with a purpose. He eliminated a lot of the side to side running that we've seen from him in the past. He ran for 81 yards on just 14 carries and scored the only touchdown of the day for the Steelers. He would have went over 100 yards but he had a long run called back on an illegal formation penalty on Mike Wallace.
Speaking of penalties, that was a disaster for the Steelers on both sides of the ball in this game. They had over 100 penalty yards and they hurt. That big Mendenhall run was called back. Willie Colon was called for countless penalties. Personal foul penalties on defense were the only reason the Eagles got into this game at all.
The aerial attack has been the bread and butter of the Steelers offense recently but not on this day which made Mendenhall's performance even more important. It was raining during the game so maybe some struggles can be blamed on that fact. But no one really looked that good in the passing game except for Heath Miller. Ben Roethlisberger missed his fair share of throws. Antonio Brown and especially Mike Wallace had big drops in key situations. Jerricho Cotchery tripped over his own feet on what should have been a touchdown.
Steelers Defense vs. Eagles Offense: Let's start with the good on the Steelers defense. For most of the game, the Steelers defense looked pretty solid. Lawrence Timmons had undoubtedly his best game of the season. He was all over the field which is a reason why he is such a frustrating player. He undeniably has the talent to be the difference maker that this defense needs but he only plays to that potential a handful of times throughout the course of a 16 game season. That's not good enough when the other playmakers are aging and injured.
The defense was also given some gifts by Michael Vick which is the reason why I initially picked the Steelers to win this game. You can always rely on Vick to give your offense the ball a few times. He lost two fumbles in the game, one of which was in the endzone. The defense can be credited for one of the fumbles but on the one in the endzone, it was just Vick being Vick. Ryan Clark made the hit on the play but there was really not attempt to knock the ball loose. Vick just lost it and it took points off the board for the Eagles.
Now let's get to the bad of the defense. Looking at the box score and seeing just 14 points on the board would make one believe that there wasn't much bad but there was. They once again proved that when they need a stop, they can't get it. The Eagles possessed the ball for most of the fourth quarter on their touchdown drive to take the lead. They converted two fourth downs. Another negative was more injuries. Troy Polamalu was injured once again, this time a calf injury. LaMarr Woodley went down with a hamstring injury which was been a storyline since last season for him. James Harrison played the whole game but he looked like a shell of his former self.
Reaction: Ultimately, a win is a win is a win. It was absolutely needed and was made even more significant by Cincinnati's loss to Miami. That being said, I wouldn't take a whole lot away from it. The defense showed improvement but the key areas that they have struggled with, injuries and clutch situations, continued to be massive problems that don't look like they are getting fixed this season. Outside of that, I'm just happy to get out with the win. I don't think there is anything of significance to take away from the game offensively. It was arguably the worst passing game that they'll have all year. It was also arguably the best running game that they'll have all year. I wouldn't expect either to become a trend.