But when the teams actually played, Jim Washburn’s group didn’t have much of an impact, failing to get to Ben Roethlisberger and giving up big plays in the run game all day long.
So what happened? Here’s the weekly review of the Eagles defensive line. Let’s start with the numbers:
You’ll notice there’s no column for sacks because, well, the Eagles didn’t have any for the second straight week. But this performance was far different from the previous week’s one against the Giants. The defensive line absolutely had an impact in that game. In this one, the Eagles did not get enough consistent pressure on Roethlisberger, and when they got close, they were unable to bring him down. To be fair, that’s one of his greatest strengths as a quarterback.
As for the numbers, you’ll see a lot of zeroes across the board. But the guy that should jump out here is Brandon Graham. He played 18 snaps and had 11 opportunities to rush the passer. In that time, Graham led the team with five hurries. Keep in mind that hurries are a stat kept by the team’s coaches, not by me or a league statistician. While the rest of the defensive linemen struggled, Graham got to the quarterback more than 45 percent of the time. He’s jumped ahead of Phillip Hunt in terms of playing time, but Graham needs to get on the field more.
One other thing you’ll notice is the Eagles’ lack of interior pressure. Other than Cullen Jenkins, the defensive tackles really were a non-factor when it came to getting to Roethlisberger. Perhaps because of that, we saw some different looks up front with Trent Cole and Jason Babin lined up inside on a few occasions.
Below is the player-by-player breakdown with some more notes:
Jason Babin – Quiet game with no sacks and one hurry. Jimmy Kempski over at Blogging the Beast took a detailed look at how the Steelers blocked Babin. He was chipped or double-teamed just five times all game. In other words, this was not a case of Pittsburgh consistently using extra blockers against him. As for individual plays, Babin showed great hustle, bringing Rashard Mendenhall down after a 24-yard gain (even though the play was called back). The refs missed a blatant holding call as Heath Miller threw Babin to the ground on Roethlisberger’s 9-yard run during the Steelers’ first scoring drive. Babin lined up in a few different places, including right defensive end and left defensive tackle. He got some pressure off the edge, but Roethliberger stepped up and found Chris Rainey for a 6-yard completion. He forced Roethlisberger to step up and throw incomplete on third down in the third. And Babin got his hand on Roethlisberger, but couldn’t bring him down on the big 3rd-and-12 conversion that went for 20 yards in the fourth. Against the run, Babin got blocked by Miller on a 7-yard Mendenhall run in the third.
Trent Cole – Also a quiet game – no sacks and just two hurries. Jordan Raanan of Bleeding Green Nation charted Cole’s snaps and found that he faced a chip or double-team on nine of 30 pass-rushing attempts. In other words, he had plenty of one-on-one chances. Cole got a hand on Roethlisberger in the second, but couldn’t bring him down on what turned out to be a 9-yard scramble. He lined up in different spots, including inside at defensive tackle. Cole hit Roethlisberger after he stepped up on third down in the third.
Fletcher Cox – Probably his least productive game of the season, although I have to take a look at the All-22 to see how often Cox was double-teamed. Cox got some pressure on Roethlisberger on a third down in the third. On one play, he lined up off the line of scrimmage, standing up, and got a running start. But overall, he struggled to get to the quarterback. Against the run, Cox got blocked on Mendenhall’s 9-yard run. He got blocked (and maybe held) on Isaac Redman’s 13-yard run in the third. Overall, three tackles, including one on Redman after a 2-yard run in the fourth.
Cullen Jenkins – He was easily the Eagles’ best interior pass rusher. Jenkins got decent pressure on a twist around Babin in the first, forcing Roethlisberger to step up. He drew a holding penalty on third down in the first as Willie Colon tackled him to the ground. Jenkins nearly had a sack, but drew a holding penalty instead late in the first half. He lined up at defensive end on a couple occasions. Against the run, Jenkins stopped Mendenhall for no gain in the first.
Derek Landri – Not a good game. Zero hurries, and Landri got blocked on several of the Steelers’ big run plays. Mendenhall ran in Landri’s direction for gains of 5 and 17 in the third. He got blocked on Mendenhall’s 9-yard run in the third and again on Redman’s 13-yard run. The good moments: Landri got his hand on a screen in the third and tackled Rainey after a 6-yard completion. He starts, but as you can see from the snap counts above, Cox consistently plays more.
Cedric Thornton – He was OK. Thornton dropped Rainey for no gain in the first and drew a holding penalty on a run play in the fourth. Thornton also did a good job helping to stop a Redman 4-yard run on the final drive.
Darryl Tapp – The coaches credited him with three hurries, second-most on the team, although I didn’t see him have much of an impact, other than earning a personal foul for unnecessary roughness in the first.
Brandon Graham – Mentioned him above. Graham led the team with five hurries. He hit Roethlisberger as he released the ball on a first-quarter incompletion. He charged through a double-team and hit him again, forcing Roethlisberger to throw it away in the second. Fox didn’t show a good replay, but this was the play where Roethlisberger had something to say to Graham afterwards. Graham drove Miller back with relative ease and pressured Roethlisberger into dumping it off for a 2-yard loss, but Nnamdi Asomugha was called for holding on the play. Made the most of his opportunities once again.
Phillip Hunt - He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities, but Hunt has just two hurries on the season. Played only six snaps against Pittsburgh.
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