By Matt Pawlikowski
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
When: Sunday Oct, 7 2012
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Forecast: 55 degrees at kickoff with clouds and fog
The last time: Philadelphia won a close one 15-6 at Lincoln Financial Field in 2008.
It’s called the Battle of Pennsylvania, or the Turnpike War, and over the years the Eagles have had the Steelers’ number.
Philly is 46-27-3 all time, and while this is not like the rivalry with the Baltimore Ravens, these Birds are not well-liked in the Western part of the state.
“It’s not a division game. It’s AFC versus NFC,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “But no matter what sport it is, it seems to be Pittsburgh versus Philly and a general hatred. That’s what I’ve noticed since I moved here about Philadelphia.”
This one could be a doozy as a Steelers loss could put them 2 1/2 games behind the Ravens and possibly the Cincinnati Bengals, who play a weak Miami Dolphins team this weekend. Pittsburgh though has lost only once in its last 13 homes games.
Philadelphia, 3-1, averages 417.8 offensive yards per game, but interestingly have barely eked out victories in its wins. The Steelers, on the other hand, have started fast but in the two losses fell in the final minutes.
Meaning something has to give.
While the Eagles are prepared for the return of both safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison, most of the talk around Philly has been of Rothlisberger.
“The one thing he does a great job with, well he does a lot of things well, is that he extends plays. He’s very strong in the pocket, and he has mobility,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “He always keeps his eyes down the field. If you have that one quality that is a little different than some of the other quarterbacks, he keeps every play alive. As a secondary player, you better continue to cover your player until the play is history and it’s over, or he’s going to make you pay for it.”
You can bet he will remember the last time he faced the Eagles too as they sacked him eight times in that game a 15-6 loss in 2008.
It’s something the Eagles secondary is preparing for and their pass defense is tough, seventh in the NFL allowing just 206 yards per game.
“It’s tough with fast guys, but it’s something, as a DB, you’ve been doing ever since you’ve been playing the position,” safety Nate Allen said. “When a play breaks down and you’re in coverage, you’ve got to find somebody and go get them because they can run any route they want. They just get open.”
Eagles corners vs. the Steelers wideouts: Remember these names, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. They are the Eagles cornerbacks, and right now they are two of the best in the NFL, having allowed just 16 catches on them. How they contain Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and the rest of the Steelers receiving corps will be a huge key to the outcome of the game.
Rashard Mendenhall vs. the Eagles defense: Thus far, the Eagles defense has done wonders on third down.They are third best in the league at holding opposing offenses which could be interesting as the Steelers offense ranks among the league elite in converting third downs. The key here could be the Steelers run game, which to date has averaged a measly 2.6 yards per carry. With Mendenhall expected to make his return to the lineup, it should give the Steelers a huge boost.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick: “It’s going to be a tough matchup against Pittsburgh this week. It’s always a tough matchup any time you play them and playing them on the road. Their record at home is outstanding. But that’s what it’s all about, two good teams clashing head to head and we just (have) to find a way to come out on top.” .
Eagles safety Kurt Coleman: “They have a lot of weapons. You have Big Ben but he has a plethora of guys. (Steelers tight end) Heath Miller is actually having a great season so far with four touchdowns. Like I was saying, (Roethlisberger) knows how to extend plays for long periods of time. And his wide receivers are fast and know how to work for the ball.”
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Matt Pawlikowski is a veteran journalist covering all things Steelers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.