After defeating the Buffalo Bills last Saturday the Pittsburgh Steelers will be back on the field Thursday night against their Keystone State rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles. The third preseason is considered to be the final dress rehearsal of the preseason. The starters will most likely play the entire first half. Therefore, there will be plenty of things to keep an eye on during the game. Mike Tomlin has ruled out five players for Thursday. Three rookies, cornerback Shaquille Richardson, linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, tight end Eric Waters will not play. Also two veterans will not suit up, center Cody Wallace and long snapper Greg Warren. Players that are on the verge of being cut will need to play well to earn a roster spot. As for the assumed starters, here are three things to keep an eye on during the game.
We all know preseason games are meaningless as far as wins and losses go and that sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly how good or bad your team is based on these games. However, after facing Eli Manning and E.J. Manuel the Steelers defense has only allowed the two starters to go a combined 17-29 for 148 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. On Thursday night the Steelers will get a real test trying to defend Nick Foles. No offense to Eli or E.J. but neither of them are top ten quarterbacks at the moment. Foles on the other hand had one of the most remarkable seasons ever for a quarterback, throwing 27 touchdowns to only two interceptions in Chip Kelly’s first year as the head coach. In order to stop Foles and potent Eagles offense it will need to a total team effort. So while I wrote pass defense as something to watch, it will be just as important for the Steelers to have a strong consistent pass rush to help the defensive backs and linebackers.
Brett Keisel / Stopping LeSean McCoy
Brett Keisel is back in the black and gold for his 13th season. As most of us can agree it was a good move to bring back Da Beard. His impact on the younger defensive lineman will only be a positive this season even if he doesn’t play as much as he has in the past. As for Thursday, who knows if Keisel will even participate in the game. If he does or does not play it will be interesting to see how the defensive line handles the task of stopping Shady McCoy and even Darren Sproles. Like I mentioned in the first thing to watch for, the Eagles offense has the potential to be very good. It would be nice to see the Steelers shut down McCoy thanks to everybody on the defensive front. Also this game could give us a good look of how Keisel interacts with the new Steelers on the line, like Cam Thomas and Stephon Tuitt.
Last week against the Bills, the Steelers only rushed for ten total yards in the first half. The Bills do have a talented defensive line but last year they finished 28th against the run. Last season the Eagles ranked 10th defending the run so it will be a good test for the Steelers to establish the run game. Against Buffalo, the Steelers three main running backs, Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, and Dri Archer, had nine carries for 11 yards. If the Steelers are serious about bringing back the ground and pound run game they will need to do a better job against the Eagles. The offensive line did fine job pass blocking last Saturday but the Steelers want to be a balanced offense. It will be interesting to see if the first team offensive line can have a great game in both facets of the offense, unlike the Buffalo game.
What else should we be watching for Steelers Nation?