Eagles vs. Steelers Preview Q&A With Dale Lolley
In this week’s installment of opposition research, we talked to Steelers beat writer Dale Lolley. We discussed how Pittsburgh will attack Carson Wentz, what key match-ups could determine the winner of the game and who will come out on top, among several other topics.
What are Pittsburgh’s strengths?
“Definitely the offensive side of the ball; they can score with anybody. Ben Roethlisberger is at the top of his game, Antonio Brown is one of the best receivers in the league, they’ve got good depth at the receiver position, the offensive line is very good and I don’t know if there’s a better No. 2 running back in the league than DeAngelo Williams. They haven’t missed a beat with DeAngelo Williams in there.”
What are Pittsburgh’s weaknesses?
“The secondary is still a big question mark. They were 30th last year in pass defense; right now, they’re 31st. That being said, they’ve given up one touchdown pass in the first two games. Even though they’ve given up about 350 yards a game through the air, that’s because the two teams they’ve played have thrown the ball about 50 times apiece. But the pass defense is still a work in progress. It’s not great for sure.”
What are Pittsburgh’s suspensions and injuries that could impact this game?
“Obviously, the Le’Veon Bell suspension is big. But DeAngelo Williams is leading the NFL in rushing, so they’re still very effective in the running game. Ramon Foster, their left guard, is a little banged up with an ankle injury. Defensive end Cam Heyward is dealing with a high ankle sprain that he’s been playing through, so that has slowed him down a little bit. Other than that, they’ve been pretty healthy.”
How will Pittsburgh’s offense attack Philadelphia’s defense?
“They’ll definitely go after them through the air. The weakness of the Philadelphia defense is definitely in the back end in the secondary, and the Steelers have some guys that will test that. If they can get Antonio Brown matched up on-one-on with anybody in that secondary, the Eagles will be in trouble. I don’t think they have anybody that can cover him consistently. He only had four catches for 39 yards last week, which is his lowest total in a game that Ben Roethlisberger started since the 2012 season, so he’s a little bit ticked off. He should be highly motivated to have a big game this week.”
How will Pittsburgh’s defense attack Carson Wentz?
“They’ll try to disguise a lot of stuff pre-snap. That’s what they do regardless, but they’ll really concentrate on that this week. They’ll make it look like they’re rushing seven guys and then drop everybody into coverage, or vice versa to try to get him to make mistakes. I think the big thing for the Steelers that they like to do now is they want to put their offense on the field and have them score some early points and then force the other team to keep up. It’s not what you think of when you think of Steelers football, but that’s what they’re doing now. They want to get out to a lead and then force the other team to make mistakes when they’re trying to keep up.”
What do you think a key match-up will be this week?
“How the Steelers handle Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham on the right side of their offensive line. I expect the Eagles will try to do some stuff with Cox to get him matched up on Foster because he’s hurt, but for the most part, it will be him working against [right guard] David DeCastro and [right tackle] Marcus Gilbert on the right side. If the Steelers can control those two guys, they should have a lot of success in this game.”
Who do you think will win?
“I got the Steelers winning, 27-17. I think the Eagles are getting better and I like what I’ve seen from Wentz, but honestly, he’s beaten Cleveland and Chicago and I think those might be the two worst teams in football. The Steelers have knocked off a pair of division champions already from last season, and I just think they have a better football team.”