Now that everybody has had a day to enjoy the Eagles' shocking 34-3 victory over the Steelers, it's time to pour a little cold water on the celebration.
There was actually a lot working in the Eagles' favor on Sunday. We're all so conditioned to look at the Steelers as legitimate Super Bowl contenders — and they are — that it's easy to overlook some of the obvious warning signs an upset might be brewing.
None of this is to say the Eagles aren't a better team than many people expected or Carson Wentz and the defense aren't the real deal. It's clear even some of the more optimistic projections underrated the talent on this roster or didn't account for a rookie quarterback playing like a 10-year veteran.
Are the Eagles now Super Bowl contenders themselves though? I'm not sold. Everything seemed to align just right this week, and that's not always going to be the case as this season progresses.
Steelers' 31st-ranked pass defense
To begin with, Pittsburgh's pass defense is atrocious. The Steelers have just one sack through three games, while the secondary consists of two first-year starters and had two rookies playing key roles on Sunday as well.
We can discuss at length how they were playing more zone, tried to disguise their coverages and used exotic blitzes. The truth is, from a talent and experience standpoint, the Steelers pass defense wasn't any better than that of the Bears or Browns. If Wentz was able to carve up those defenses, why not Pittsburgh? Turns out he did with little trouble, which probably says just as much about the opponent as it does this kid.
Big Ben plays small on the road
As great as Ben Roethlisberger is, he's been a different quarterback in road games throughout his career, especially in the last year-and-a-half. In eight starts since 2015, the 13th-year veteran has now thrown just eight touchdowns to 11 interceptions while guiding the Steelers to a 4-4 record. Over his career, Roethlisberger has posted starkly different home/away splits in touchdown-to-interception ratio (2.3:1 to 1.5:1) and win percentage (.759 to .575).
Any win over Roethlisberger is a good one, but it's not quite the same as if the Eagles had gone into Pittsburgh and done it. He from being incredible at Heinz Field to merely good as a visitor, particularly recently.
Injuries, injuries and more injuries
Every team has to deal with injuries in the NFL. Yet as much as pointing to injuries could be construed as making excuses for the Steelers, the fact is they lost a lot of bodies as the game went on.
Left guard Ramon Foster exited with a chest injury, and the Steelers' top two interior reserves were already out. Pro Bowler Lawrence Timmons was sent to the hospital with a shin injury, while fellow interior linebacker Ryan Shazier played with a bum knee. Starting safety Robert Golden departed with a hamstring injury, and complementary receiver Eli Rogers was taken out by a toe.
With Le'veon Bell already inactive due to suspension, the Steelers were incredibly shorthanded by the time the clock hit zero. Sure, the Eagles were without a pair of starters in Zach Ertz and Leodis McKelvin, but that was nothing compared to heavy losses sustained by the other side. That was a depleted team on Sunday.
The Steelers got away from their game plan
You can't help but think the Steelers probably abandoned the ground attack far too early in the game. Pittsburgh running backs only carried nine times on Sunday, and four of those came on the opening possession. That means the offense only handed the ball off five more times in a contest that was still only 13-3 at halftime. That could not have been the plan.
To the Eagles' credit, they did a good job of stopping the run. However, once the Steelers became one-dimensional, that allowed the defensive linemen to pin their ears back and really get after Roethlisberger, and they did exactly that.
So why should that be held against the Eagles? Because you have to believe other teams will be more patient with the run in the future after watching this front four tee off on Roethlisberger. A more balanced approach will make future opponents a lot less predictable and harder to defend, even if it's not exactly Big Ben under center.
Bye bye, Lane
Any day now, we're expected to hear the final result of Lane Johnson's appeal for his PED suspension, and while there's a chance it might be reduced from 10 games, the expectation is the right tackle will not be uniform after the bye and will miss significant time.
A big part of the reason the Eagles have been so successful thus far is they're winning the battle up front. They're protecting Wentz reasonably well and running the ball effectively. Now what happens when Johnson is out, Alleb Barbre has to take his place and either Stefan Wisniewski or rookie Isaac Seumalo steps in at left guard for Barbre? What happens if there's an injury or two along the line beyond that?
That's pure conjecture, other than the part where Johnson is probably going to miss a minimum of a month. Once that news is handed down, there's no telling if the offensive line will be as good as it has, which could have a domino effect of sorts for the Eagles.