PITTSBURGH -- Nate Allen had two excuses at his disposal Thursday night. The Eagles free safety chose to use neither.
Allen had a rough night and so did the rest of his teammates as the Pittsburgh Steelers rolled to a 24-point lead in beating the Eagles 24-14 in a preseason game at Heinz Field.
The Steelers drove 14 plays for touchdowns in each of their two possessions, going a combined 176 yards against a new and improved "Dream Team" defense that added cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, end Jason Babin and tackle Cullen Jenkins in free agency.
Allen made pivotal mistakes on both drives but didn't hide from them.
"I didn't execute very well," Allen said. "The defense as a whole didn't execute well."
Allen is coming off knee surgery that cut his rookie season short by three games last year. Furthermore, he and free safety Kurt Coleman are adjusting to new defensive coordinator Luis Castillo asking the safeties to provide more run support than predecessor Sean McDermott.
However, Allen said the knee was not a factor despite a greatly increased workload. He played into the fourth quarter on Thursday after being on the field sparingly in the Eagles' preseason opener against Baltimore a week earlier.
"It was a really good test for the knee, to be able to get out there and play for a long time," Allen said. "It feels fine. There is a little soreness there, which is to be expected, but no pain. I don't think it's an issue anymore."
Playing closer to the line, though, is still a learning experience for Allen and he struggled mightily during the first two drives.
Allen's problems started on the third play of the game when tight end Heath Miller got past him and caught an 11-yard pass for a first down on third-and-1. Later in the drive, Allen got beat again on a third-and-8 play when wide receiver Arnaz Battle took a short pass over the middle from Roethlisberger and turned it into an 18-yard gain.
Allen's third-down problems continued on the final play when he was tentative on a blitz and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took advantage by throwing a 29-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown, who got wide open against Asante Samuel.
Allen blitzed from the left side and cornerback Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie came charging from the right. Running back Rashard Mendenhall blocked Rodgers-Cromartie, at which point Allen stopped and jumped instead of continuing into the backfield. That gave Roethlisberger plenty of time to loft the ball to Brown.
The second drive provided even more third-down trouble for Allen. He and SAM linebacker Jamar Chaney blitzed on a third-and-4 play, but Roethlisberger made a quick release and hit running back Mewelde Moore for a 23-yard gain to the Eagles' 12.
Three plays later, Allen got turned around as veteran wide receiver Hines Ward ran past him and hauled in a 20-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0 with 11:02 left in the first half.
"It was a good test for me and the entire defense in facing the Steelers," Allen said. "They've got a great team. They went to the Super Bowl last season and they've got a lot of weapons on their offense. We didn't play well against them, but the important thing is to learn from it and get ready for the regular season. We've got two more games to get ready and I think we're going to be just fine."
E-mail John Perrotto at firstname.lastname@example.org.