Putting points on the board won’t come easy for the Eagles this week, as they travel across the state to face the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers enter this contest boasting the second best defense in the league when it comes to total yards per game, allowing just about 290 yards on average. Their defensive strengths are stopping the run and getting after the passer. Pittsburgh has allowed a measly 54 yards per game on the ground, along with giving up just one rushing touchdown on the year. Their pass rushing is just as an impressive, accumulating 15 sacks through three games, while pressuring the passer on 46.5% of the quarterback’s dropbacks.
There aren’t many holes Doug Pederson will be able to exploit in this one. The running game will likely struggle all game, given how dominant Pittsburgh’s been against the run and how beat up Philly’s offensive line is. And the deep passing game will likely be a non-factor as well with how aggressively the Steelers rush the passer.
But, there are a few ways Pederson and Co. can attack this vaunted defense, and they’ve had success with these in the past. The quick passing game, mixing in quick play action plays and the screen game will be the keys to success this week. With all the injuries at the wide receiver position, the quick passing game was already relied upon last week against San Fran, and I expect that game plan to carry over into this matchup.
The only aspect of the Steelers defense that is exploitable is their pass defense, where they rank 12th in the league in passing yards per game. Some of that is just a product of how the Steelers play defense. They currently lead the NFL in blitz percentage, sending extra pressure on 51.2% of their snaps.
Swings/screens to Miles Sanders, quick RPO type plays with Wentz getting the ball out of his hand quickly and short timing routes should all be effective against an aggressive defense like this.
The screen game hasn’t been nearly as effective this year as it has been in year’s past, but if there’s any week for it to come alive, it’s this one. Getting the balls in Sanders’ hands is always a good idea. So if he struggles to find creases in this stingy rush defense, getting him the ball quickly out of the backfield is the next best option.
I’d like to see Boston Scott get a bit more involved in these plays as well. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands in the open field, so it behooves Doug to find ways to get him the ball when the majority of his starting skill players are on the sideline with injuries.
Greg Ward is really effective in the short passing game as well with his shiftiness, as are most of the wideouts at the Eagles disposal right now. It would be nice to get Zach Ertz more involved, but defenses have really keyed in on him since he’s the only bonafied star on this offense. I’d expect the Steelers to employ a similar strategy against Ertz this week as well.
Pederson had a great game plan last week against a solid Niners defense, and we left Levi Stadium victorious. It’ll be up to Doug to employ a similarly effective game plan this week if the Eagles are to win two in a row.
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