Any thought the Pittsburgh Steelers had about winning the AFC North, or even contending in the division, ought to be eliminated after Thursday’s performance by the first team on both sides of the ball in an NFL preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Philly. The offense managed just 96 total yards and no points, while the defense conceded an embarrassing 251 yards, 17 points and left no real positives for those trying to find solace somewhere in the opening 30 minutes of the game.
Of note, running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, who were both arrested yesterday for alleged possession of marijuana, played and got five carries in the first half. But neither did anything spectacular, combining for 43 yards on 10 carries, a respectable 4.3 yards per carry. However, neither back was able to really burst through tackles or break away for any kind of significant yardage. Bell had the longest run by the duo, a rather pedestrian seven yards.
The Pittsburgh passing game wasn’t any better. The Eagles were well prepared for Dri Archer‘s speed, holding him to 12 yards on two receptions (three targets). Antonio Brown caught one pass for 19 yards in the first half. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed targets on multiple occasions, or put throws in spots where receivers had little chance to run after the catch even if they hauled the pass in. Roethlisberger also made a terrible decision in Eagles’ territory, floating a ball much too far for Archer that was intercepted by Philadelphia’s Nolan Carroll.
The starters came out for the opening drive of the third quarter, but the possession ended with a five-yard loss on a Bell carry, then Roethlisberger was sacked on third-and-12. He later threw a touchdown pass to tight end Heath Miller, but the Eagles were already ahead 24-0 by that point in the third quarter.
Defensively, the Steelers were a mess. There were some hard hits and a few good stops, but overall, the Eagles had too much space to work with and several missed tackles kept the defense on the field for more minutes than they needed to be. Pittsburgh’s defense was badly fooled on a screen pass from Nick Foles to LeSean McCoy, as he had multiple blockers upon receiving the ball against one lonely Steelers defender. McCoy scored on the 22-yard play.
While there aren’t many offenses quite like the Eagles in the AFC North, Pittsburgh’s poor effort on both sides of the ball doesn’t give any glimpse of a team that is going to contend when at full strength. Never mind if the club is without Bell, Blount or both due to a league suspension based on their current legal issue. Bell missed the start of last season as a rookie due to injury, Pittsburgh started 0-4 and despite an 8-4 finish, missed the playoffs.
Nothing seen Thursday night from the starters would indicate any kind of 8-4 run would be there to potentially save the Steelers this season.