It’s the battle of the Keystone State in Week 1 of the NFL’s preseason slate in the City of Brotherly Love. The Pittsburgh Steelers make the trip across the state as they battle the defending Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, Thursday night. Pittsburgh was 3-1 in the preseason last season and went 13-3 in the regular season before losing 45-42 at home to Jacksonville in the AFC Divisional Round. Philadelphia was 2-2 in the preseason, then 13-3 in the regular season and won the first Super Bowl in franchise history by beating the Patriots 41-33. Philadelphia won the last meeting between the teams, taking a 34-3 triumph at home on September 25, 2016.
Pittsburgh Steelers Hope to Make Super Bowl Run in 2018
Pittsburgh had a strong regular season last year, going 13-3, but the good times ended with a shootout loss to Jacksonville in the postseason. Ben Roethlisberger is back again but, at 36 with 15 years in the league, he now is looking at things on a year by year basis. He connected on 360 of 561 passes for 4,251 yards with 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Star running back Le’Veon Bell, who ran for 1,291 yards and nine scores while catching 85 passes for 655 yards and two touchdowns, is disgruntled about being franchise tagged again and is holding out of the second straight training camp. It’s a safe bet that you won’t see him in this contest.
With Roethlisberger likely not seeing much action, if any at all, here, it will be the first chance for the Steelers to try setting the rest of the QB depth chart. Landry Jones was 23 of 28 for 239 yards with a touchdown and an interception in regular season action last year: he’s played in 19 NFL games and made five starts while throwing 169 passes. The third spot on the depth chart looks like it could be a battle between Josh Dobbs and rookie third-round pick Mason Rudolph. With Bell out, James Conner, who ran for 144 yards last season, is atop the depth chart at the moment. Former Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (26 carries, 108 rushing yards, TD) and Fitzgerald Toussaint are going to get their share of reps. Antonio Brown (101 grabs, 1533 yards, nine TD) was injured in training camp and was sent back to Pittsburgh. JuJu Smith-Schuster (58 catches, 917 yards, seven TD) is going to be the #2 receiver but finding out the #3/4/5 receivers will be an ongoing battle. Replacing Ryan Shazier at inside linebacker is going to be a major challenge: he won’t play this season after undergoing spinal stabilization surgery.
Philadelphia Eagles Seek to Start Preseason Off Right
It’s hard to argue with a team that was deep enough to win a Super Bowl despite losing their starting quarterback in December. The Eagles picked up their first Super Bowl title with Nick Foles under center. Despite teams being interested in picking him up, Philadelphia wasn’t moved by the offers they received and chose to keep him. With Carson Wentz still rehabbing his torn ACL, it seems to be a smart move and provides insurance should he be slow to come back or suffer another injury. Wentz hit 265 of 440 passes for 3,296 yards with 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions while adding 299 yards on the ground. Foles completed 57 of 101 passes for 537 yards with five touchdowns against two picks in the regular season before hitting 77 of 106 throws for 971 yards with six touchdowns and one pick in the playoffs.
Wentz likely doesn’t play in this one and if that’s the case, you can expect Foles to be limited too. Should that be the case, we’ll see a lot of Nate Sudfeld, who saw his only NFL regular season action in the finale last season: he was 19 of 23 for 134 yards. If Sudfeld takes a seat, the Eagles will bring out Joe Callahan, who was with the Packers last season. He completed five of seven passes for 11 yards in mop-up duty I his lone NFL action. There are plenty of options to choose from in the run game with Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles. Kamar Aiken, Markus Wheaton, Greg Ward Jr., Mack Hollins and Bryce Treggs will all be in the mix for the #3 receiver role vacated by Torrey Smith. We’ll see if any of them get a leg up on the spot. The same can be said for Richard Rodgers, Josh Perkins and Billy Brown for the #2 TE role behind Zach Ertz.
- Eagles are 10-2 ATS in their last 12 games on grass
- Eagles are 7-2 ATS in their last 9 home games
- Eagles are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 games overall
- Steelers are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games overall
- Steelers are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games on grass