If the Philadelphia Eagles go on to have a great year and even win it all, they may owe a big thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers for showing them just how much work they need to do. In the Battle of Pennsylvania, it was the team wearing Black and Yellow that showed why they should be considered SuperBowl favorites as they easily handled Michael Vick and the Eagles 24-14 on a calm Thursday night at Heinz field.
Don't let that score fool you either, it wasn't that close as the first and second unit for the Steelers held the Philly starters, who played all of the first half, to zero points while putting up 21 points themselves. The Steelers were dominating on both the ground and in the air, out-gaining Philly 262-71 in the first half. Their first two possessions lasted the length of the field and both ended with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger finding a receiver for the score.
"To come out and get 14 points on a great team like the Eagles shows that we are moving in the right direction toward Baltimore," Hines Ward said, referring to the regular-season opener. "I think we started to get into a rhythm, and we overcame some of the penalties that we had. Every guy was capitalizing on the opportunities that they were given."
The most encouraging sight for the reigning AFC Champs, other than it's offense easily moving the ball, was that the defense rebounded from an unusually sub-par performance against the Washington Redskins to hound the Eagles and keep them scoreless when it mattered most. They harried and harassed Michael Vick into throwing 3 interceptions despite only using a patchwork secondary due to injuries to corners Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden.
"It was a big thing for us after last week," Steelers safety Ryan Clark said. "There was a lot of criticism of our team for not being physical and not coming to play. Everybody came here focused."
It's hard to put much stock into a preseason game but after last night, one side of Pennsylvania has to be feeling pretty good while the other half, well, there's always next week.
"We just have to go back to the drawing board," said Philadelphia defensive lineman Trent Cole. "That's why they call it the preseason. We're going to get back together. We still have a great team, I don't care what anybody says."
Photo credit – AP/Don Wright