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Battle of Pennsylvania ...

Written by Dan Gigler on .

... Didn't we just do this?

PREGAME

  • Does it seem almost unbelievable that its already been four years since the Steelers routed the Birds at Heinz Field in what was only Big Ben's sixth start?
  • So how much do you hate yourself for leaving Ronnie Brown on your fantasy bench ...
  • Bengals heading to OT with the Jints ...
  • Who do you root for in the Cleveland/Baltimore game? Baltimore, because if the Browns lose, they're done for as well? Or Cleveland because rooting for the Ravens in any circumstance is completely unacceptable? Or neither?
  • In the immortal words of Jeffrey Lebowski, "I hate the ... Eagles, man!"

 
Of course, the Dude was referring to Don Henley, et al., but why pick nits?

 FIRST QUARTER

  • The Eagles open up with a smooth drive on which Donovan McNabb goes 5 for 5 and Philadelphia is poised to score -- McNabb completes his sixth pass to Tony Hunt who is positively annihilated by a pack of Steelers led by Orpheus Roye. Hunt coughs up the ball, the play is originally ruled that Hunt is down, but Tomlin challenges the play and the Steelers get the ball.
  • Steelers take over and start their drive passing to Heath Miller -- tight end passes! sign of the apocalypse! -- and continue moving via a few nifty passes to Santonio and Hines, and an Eagles sack that was negated by an offsides penalty. Willie Parker makes the 1000th carry of his career, but loses a yard, Not much room for the running game thus far, but that's OK -- Ben hits Nate Washington (his first catch of the season?) on 2nd and 11 for a first down. Steelers in the red zone.
  • Steelers falter on 3rd and 4. Jeff Reed nails a 37-yarder. Steelers lead 3-0.
  • In other news: Thanks for stopping by Cincinnati. See you in 2009. Giants win in OT, and Marvin Lewis prepares his resume.
  • Forgot to mention we are at the venerable Mario's South Side Saloon. Great place but they have the AC jacked so high you could hang meat in here.
  • The guy to my left notes that Andy Reid is approaching Ralph Friedgen levels of obesity. Not a good thing.
  • Big roar from the Steelers faithful when the Browns scored in their game against Baltimore. Guess I got an answer to my pregame question. Bigger roar when Travis Kirschke and Lamarr Woodley drop McNabb for a sack to end the first quarter.

SECOND QUARTER

  • First play of the quarter, and Westbrook limps off the field. Stay tuned ...
  • Eagles piecing together a nice drive, but Westbrook being taken to the lockerroom.
  • Flare pass from McNabb to Correll Buckhalter, who makes a terrific individual effort, literally hurdling Ike Taylor at the goalline. Touchdown Eagles. Eagles 7 Steelers 3.
  • McNabb is a perfect 13 for 13 so far in the game. We imagine Jim Nantz is already composing some awful prose about it.
  • The Steelers really need to put together a time-consuming drive right now, as their defense has been on the field for pretty much the whole game.
  • Mercifully, CBS is having technical problems and for a whole two minutes, we didn't have to hear Phil Simms voice. Do you believe in miracles?? YES!!
  • Steelers get their dive extended via a gift of a penalty on a third and 4.
  • More lousy protection for Big Ben. The gentleman to my left lets a blue streak go after Ben is sacked and fumbles on a third and three. Philly ball. In the plus column I am eating some ridiculously good pierogies right now. So I have that going for me. Which is nice.
  • McNabb is absolutely picking apart the Steelers right now, mostly on short sideline routes, but the Steelers D bends but doesn't break. Larry Foote gets to him on 2nd and short which sets up a third and 8. McNabb throws low into good coverage by Troy. Eagles settle for three. Eagles 10 Steelers 3.

Inside of MARIO'S:

marios

 

  • The Eagles defense is blitzing the lights out of the Steelers O-line. Big Ben just got sacked twice in a row, but the Eagles defender uses Ben's facemask to bring him down. Steelers get a gift, drive stays alive. We can only hope Ben stays alive too, given the awful protection he's had so far.
  • Two-minute warning.
  • Big Ben goes for a home run ball to Nate Washington (???) in double coverage and Asante Samuel comes down with it. A really questionable call at this point, especially since the Steelers have all of their timeouts.
  • Ensuing possession, Lawrence Timmons brings a savage edge rush into McNabb's grill. Donovan hurriedly puts up a dying duck that's easily picked by Bryant McFadden. Steelers get a huge break with 1:37 and all their timeouts left. Ball on the Eagles 45. 
  • After a quick hitter to Hines and a nifty inside handoff to Melwlde Moore for a first down, Ben is thrown to the turf for what has to be 79th time today. 2nd and 17.
  • Third and 11 and the Steelers line must be conspiring to get Big Ben killed. Not a sack, but might as well be. Maxim Reed to try a 53-yarder.
  • WOW. Just ... WOW. Skippy NAILS a 53-yarder, which has to be his career high. I should note that we are blogging from the home of the Jeff Reed show, so that must be some good mojo there. Eagles 10, Steelers 6.

HALFTIME

The Good: Uh ... nothing. Seriously. Oh wait. Those pierogies we mentioned. That and Jeff Reed's massive quads. 

pierogies

The Bad: The Steelers gameplanning thus far, on both sides of the ball. Its only a 10-6 game at this point, and they've already forsaken the run (17 yards rushing) as if they were down by three touchdowns, which frankly they should be. McNabb is shredding the Steelers D on mostly underneath routes, and without Westbrook. Were it not for a few breaks and turnovers, your black & gold could be down something like 24-3.

The Ugly: The offensive line. They truly are offensive. Ben has been sacked six times and knocked down eight more. There was a question as to whether or not Kendall Simmons would play, as his wife is about to give birth to the couple's third child any moment now. Perhaps a better question is if in fact the entire line has actually been replaced by their respective wives or newborns, so badly has their pass protection been thus far.

THIRD QUARTER

  • Steelers get the ball to start and do so with Willie Parker off the left side for four. Run the dang ball! 
  • Hines incomplete. Two consecutive offsides -- TWO! (Kendall & Kemo) -- and its 3rd & 16. Incomplete. Punt. Way to start it up, boys.
  • Major plot twist here: McNabb is out. Kevin Kolb is in (?) -- if the Steelers can't come back and win with no McNabb and no Westbrook, they don't deserve to be on the field.
  • Quick unrelated editorial: this smoking ban thing in bars is great. It doesn't stink in here, which is so nice.
  • Holy Moses! What a pick by Troy on a deflected pass. He is a madman. Philly is challenging and they will not win this. The guys next to me do shots in honor of Troy.
  • Two carries to Parker for no gain. On 3rd and 10 Ben technically doesn't get sacked for a change, but gets dropped scrambling for a yard gain after his pass protection again folds like AIG.
  • McNabb back in with Philly on the move. The Steelers D is wilting, and its hard to blame them at this point, as they've been on the field nearly the entire game.
  • Spoke too soon. The D continues to persevere, forcing a Philly punt. Steelers have to make something from this posession and the line needs to MAN UP and give Ben some time to work. They're throwing him to the wolves out there.
  • Lo and behold, Ben actually gets some time and completes a 15 yarder to HEEEEEEEEEEATH Miller. Two runs to Willie for nothing. Third and six and the line takes their coffee break. Ben abused as he scrambles for two yards. Punt.
  • Gratuitous camera shot of the Eagles cheerleaders. Nice.
  • Steelers D refuses to quit, forces a 3 and out after a great effort by Woodley to sack McNabb. Philly punts, Steelers get the ball at midfield. The fact that they are still in this game is a near miracle.
  • The Steelers convert a third down via a completion to Hines. Two FWP carries for 3 yards and the Steelers face a huge 3rd and 7 as the third quarter expires.

FOURTH QUARTER

  • Willie Colon gets blown by like a turnstile on the Philly El, Ben is sacked for the seventh time today. Steelers out of field goal range. Punt. The citizenry here at Mario's is getting more than a little annoyed. The line should be embarrassed.
  • Silver lining: The Steelers are losing and still making the playoffs today. The Bengals already lost and the Browns are en route to the 0-3 club, losing 28-10 to Baltimore, who the Steelers face next Monday.
  • For as bad as the offense has been, the Steelers defense has been resolute, despite not getting a break at all. They force a 3 and out and an Eagles punt. Steeler ball.
  • Incomplete, 4 yards to Ward and the Steelers face 3rd and 6 for about the 17th time today, and we give you one guess as to what happens ... Steelers punt.  
  • Once again, the Steelers defense proves it is a proud unit, forcing yet another Eagles punt. This comes after Woodley staples McNabb to the turf just after he lets go of an errant 3rd and 7 pass attempt. The Defense hasn't quit today, the offense hasn't quit either -- you have to at least try first to do that.
  • The Steelers have to go 94 yards to score. Try not to laugh.
  • So fitting. The Steelers once again refuse to block for Big Ben, he's flagged for grounding as he gets crushed in the end zone. By rule, that's a safety for the Eagles. The call is really questionable, it probably should've been an incomplete pass but does it really matter? Really? The Steelers frankly deserve this for how poorly they've played on offense. Eagles 12, Steelers 6.
  • The Steelers kickoff to the Eagles and again force them to punt. Its inconceivable to think that for as poorly as the Steelers have played, they need only score a touchdown to win. Of course to do that, they'll have to go 97 yards. Not bloody likely.
  • Third and 15, the Eagles pass rush continues to come like waves of soldiers landing on Omaha Beach. Ben is sacked for the 8th time and stripped of the football, Eagles recover. Game over. The effort by the Steelers offense is nothing short of a DISGRACE.
  • More good news, Ben is headed to the locker room. They should've put him in witness protection starting in about the second quarter.
  • David Akers chip shot. Eagles 15, Steelers 6.
  • Looks like they are working on Ben's throwing hand.
  • Steelers moving the ball with Byron Leftwich in, but the line proves they are equally opportunity stinkers, letting Leftwich get buried on a third and one. The Steelers inexplicably go for it on 4th down, rather than going for 3 and then trying an onside kick. That fails. Game over.

FINAL SCORE EAGLES 15  STEELERS 6.

Postgame commentary coming as soon as we get back to The Office. In the mean time, please leave us your comments on the game ...

 POSTGAME

Ugh ... where to begin ...  that wasn't the worst Steelers game I can think of in recent memory -- the road loss to the Raiders in 2006 and the home loss to the Ravens that same year come immediately to mind -- but it sure wasn't anything good for a team with playoff aspirations.

That was as putrid a performance by an offensive line as you could ever hope to see. They were equally incompetent in both the running (33 yards) and passing (nine sacks) games, and it wasn't any one guy that can be singled out either. All five of them absolutely stunk on ice. What's amazing is this is the same line that easily handled two allegedly superior (on paper anyway) defenses and pass rushes in Houston and Cleveland. I mean for Cripes sakes, this wasn't the '86 Bears the Steelers were playing here.

And, while Philadelphia's pass coverage was excellent, it wasn't like Ben was getting taken down by coverage sacks -- he had no time whatsoever, and could not even remotely step up in the pocket -- there was no pocket! Its as if the Eagles had just invented the blitz this week for this game and it was a concept that the Steelers had never seen before. Larry Zeirlein should be sweating. If he gets canned, we have just the guy to whip the line into shape:

Steelers lineman will earn Schrute Bucks for good play.

 

Game balls:

1.The Steelers defense. All 11 of 'em. They absolutely played their hearts out and kept the Steelers in a game they had absolutely no business being in, and limited a dynamic Philadelphia offense to just one touchdown. You can't ask for much more. They played well in all areas -- D-line, linebackers, secondary -- with Lamarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu in particular had monster games.

2. Big Ben. Seriously, if for no other reason than he kept his composure and professionalism rather than blowing a gasket and chewing out his lineman in full view of the TV cameras on the sidelines or clubbing their kneecaps with a tire iron in the huddle.

3. The timekeeper. For turning the clock to all zeroes when this abysmal showing was finally over.

Final thoughts: The good news is that this was just one game, and we're pretty confident that Coach Tomlin will get mideval on some guys in practice this week. At least they know where there problems lie. Better to air the dirty laundry in week three than say, week 13.

On a positive note, the defense has continued it's near flawless play this season, and that's how you win championships. So that's good. When the schedule came out and you saw the Steelers playing at Cleveland and at Philly in subsequent weeks, you had to figure a split was an acceptable and realistic scenario.

And that's what we have. The Steelers are sitting at 2-1 with Baltimore -- the only other team with a pulse in the division (though not for much longer, methinks) -- coming to town on Monday night. We think the Steelers might take out some frustrations on their favorite whipping boys ... just like last year:

 

 

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