The Eagles and Steelers have met 78 times through the years with Philadelphia owning the series, 47-28-3. The teams have split their last four meetings, but the Steelers come into this one as the favorites. Both squads are undefeated at 2-0 with first place in their respective divisions on the line, so coming away with a win is key for each team. A few questions that loom large on Sunday pertain to Carson Wentz’s stellar play and DeAngelo Williams’ shockingly productive start in Le’Veon Bell’s place. Will Wentz continue to make history as an undefeated rookie? It will be difficult, and is unlikely. Here are three reasons the Steelers will beat the Eagles in Week 3.
Carson Wentz faces his first real test
Let me preface the first reason by saying this: Carson Wentz will be a starter in the NFL for a long time, and he has looked great so far. Part of the reason he’s played so well is because of the paltry defenses he’s faced. Cleveland and Chicago didn’t pose much of a threat to Wentz, given the Bears’ depleted secondary and the Browns’, well, poor cornerbacks. The Steelers’ secondary isn’t much better, ranking 31st in passing yards allowed, but Pittsburgh is much more physical and stout up front. They also don’t give up many points, either, surrendering just one passing touchdown and a rating of 79.2.
Pittsburgh has given up big chunks of yardage through two games, but once teams reach the red zone, they lock down. Wentz has struggled inside the 20, completing just 5 of 13 passes for 39 yards. He hasn’t committed a turnover, but the game moves much faster in the red zone – something he hasn’t adjusted to with much ease. The Steelers’ pass rush should be able to force Wentz into a mistake or two, particularly with Ryan Shazier roaming in the middle of the field. His speed will cause problems for Wentz, who has been late on some of his reads thus far.
No Eagles CB can match up with Antonio Brown
The resounding praise for Brown doesn’t go unnoticed, seeing as just about every fan recognizes him as the No. 1 receiver in football. Why? Because he is exactly that. The Bengals shockingly shut him down last week, but don’t expect Brown to replicate that same poor performance. He’s going to rebound against an untested Eagles secondary. Philadelphia doesn’t have a single cornerback who can match up with Brown and take him out of the game – or even limit him, for that matter. Leodis McKelvin, the team’s best cornerback, is still dealing with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of practice this week after he missed Week 2.
McKelvin seems unlikely to play Sunday against the Steelers, leaving seventh-round rookie Jalen Mills and Nolan Carroll to cover Brown. Neither player can match Brown’s elite route-running ability or his quickness, and Mills lacks the experience to play him physically without being flagged. The best option for the Eagles is to bump Brown at the line of scrimmage and disrupt his timing with Roethlisberger. Mills and Carroll aren’t exactly press corners, though, and won’t have much success.
Philadelphia’s defense is a mirage
Looking at the numbers, the Eagles have the fourth-best defense in the league. They’re allowing just 286 yards per game and have surrendered 24 points through two weeks. By all measures, they’re one of the best units in football … until you consider who they’ve played: the Browns and Bears. Cleveland and Chicago boast two of the worst offenses, so it’s no surprise the Eagles were able to limit them significantly. Both teams have almost non-existent passing offenses, though Cleveland’s ground game got going in Week 2 thanks to a long run by Isaiah Crowell.
Philly’s cakewalk of a schedule thus far has made their defense look outstanding. That’s not to say it’s bad, but it won’t be able to sustain this success against the Steelers — one of the best offenses in the NFL. This will be Philadelphia’s first true test defensively, and I expect their numbers to come back down to earth. Look for DeAngelo Williams to rush for 80-plus yards and a touchdown, while Ben Roethlisberger will pick apart their underwhelming secondary.