Here are five observations from Thursdays 24-14 Eagles smack down in Pittsburgh.
This could be a positive for the Eagles. I made the point on Comcast SportsNet immediately after the game and everyone looked at me like I lost my mind.
Im not going to claim there were a lot of silver linings in the game itself. Mike Kafka played well in the fourth quarter, good for him, but it was garbage time in a preseason game. It was little consolation considering what we saw in the first half.
The Eagles were beaten in every phase of the game. The Steelers clearly were the better team. So where is the positive for the Eagles? It should put the Dream Team nonsense to rest not that it ever should have gained much traction any way.
The Eagles rode a wave of hype into Heinz Field with the national media celebrating all the new acquisitions and inflating that Super Bowl balloon. The Steelers punched a hole in it with touchdown drives on each of their first two possessions en route to a 21-0 lead at halftime.
None of the Eagles would admit to it, of course, but I did sense they were buying into the Dream Team thing just a bit. When the TV networks and national magazines keep telling you how great you are, you start to believe it.
With the way people were talking about the Eagles, I thought Roger Goodell was going to show up at the NovaCare complex next week and just hand Jeff Lurie the Lombardi Trophy. Joe Banner would toss some confetti in the air and that would be it. Why wait for the season, just start the parade.
The Steelers provided a large dose of reality. There was one team on the field Thursday that looked like a Super Bowl team. Hint: it wasnt the Eagles.
Andy Reid snapped at a postgame question about the play of his linebackers, but that was because it touched a sore and all-too obvious truth. The Eagles have an issue at that position and unless they get it straightened out, it will cause real problems.
Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo put rookie Casey Matthews at middle linebacker the first day of camp and with each passing day, it became clear this was no experiment. The coaches wanted this kid to win the job. I wonder what they are thinking now, after seeing what happened Thursday.
This is not to pick on Matthews you couldnt point to any linebacker who played well against the Steelers but it was clear the rookie was in over his head playing against an offense that (a) ran the ball with real purpose and (b) mixed in the play-action pass. Ben Roethlisberger had Matthews and all the linebackers, really spinning on their heels.
I dont know if the answer is moving Jamar Chaney from the strong side to the middle he demonstrated last season an ability to get off blocks, something Matthews will have to develop or bringing in a veteran Kirk Morrison formerly of Jacksonville is available but Matthews readiness is a real question at this point.
Rough night for Nate Allen. He was beaten in coverage several times, most notably on the 20-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Hines Ward. The quarterback did a nice job extending the play and Ward adjusted his route breaking to the corner. Allen was a step late reacting and that was all Ward needed.
More puzzling was the way Allen executed a blitz on the games opening series. Instead of coming hard off the edge, Allen hesitated, then stopped and jumped, trying to knock down the pass. He turned a six-man pressure into a five-man pressure and accomplished nothing.
Asante Samuel was beaten on the play for a touchdown by Antonio Brown. It looked bad on the replays Samuel jumped the route and Brown broke behind him for an easy score but the cornerback was doing what he always does which is playing the percentages. He knew it was six-man pressure so he anticipated Roethlisberger throwing the ball quickly.
When Samuel saw Roethlisberger look in Browns direction, he figured, Here comes the short throw and cut in front for the interception. But because the pressure wasnt there, in part because Allen didnt blitz, Roethlisberger had time to pump fake which allowed Brown to cut upfield and leave Samuel grasping at air.
On the postgame, I commented that Mike Vick was foolish for throwing his body into Troy Polamalu on an interception return. I received several e-mails from folks who said I didnt understand the game and Vick was doing what real football players do, that is, play football.
Sorry, I still think it was foolish on Vicks part. It was foolish on Polamalus part, too. Why didnt he just go out of bounds? Certain players are too valuable to their teams to take those kinds of chances in the preseason. Polamalu is that valuable to the Steelers and Vick is certainly that valuable to the Eagles.
It was probably the best tackle of the night by someone in an Eagles uniform, Ill grant you that, but that doesnt make it smart. If Vick had dislocated his shoulder or cracked a rib, the Eagles would have been in real trouble.
Sometimes preseason games are decided by how much focus one team or the other brings to it. The Steelers were clearly the more focused team Thursday. They were coming off a sloppy 16-7 loss to Washington. Coach Mike Tomlin made no attempt to hide his disgust after the game.
Were going back to work, he vowed.
Tomlin had the Steelers practicing as hard as the new CBA allows, hitting in full pads for a week while Reid ended the Eagles camp a day early. The Steelers had a chip on their shoulder Thursday and played that way.
Afterwards, Reid was the one who looked angry. Id expect a tougher week of practice for the Eagles and a more focused effort at home against Cleveland next Thursday.