Categories: Giveaways

Eagles don’t take the struggling Steelers lightly

PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles entered the bye week with a 6-0 record and a 12-plus turnover ratio not seen since 1940.

A win for the hottest team in football against the 10.5-point Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field (1 p.m., CBS, WIP-94.1-FM), and the Eagles are at their best start with Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens. and the 2004 Super Bowl season.

While the Steelers pulled off that epic start in 2004, that was with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, not the two-headed approach Mike Tomlin is rolling with in the post-Big Ben era. The Steelers are 2-5 – 1-4 with Mitchell Trubisky and 1-1 with rookie Kenny Pickett, the current starter, who has two touchdown passes and seven interceptions.

Even without Roethlisberger, who retired, the record is hard to believe, as Tomlin has no shortage of weapons in receivers Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and George Pickens, running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth. Quarterback instability and the loss of NFL defensive leader TJ Watt to injury have been too much to overcome.

Tomlin’s streak of never having a losing season in 16 years as the Steelers’ head coach is on the line. The buzz around Steeltown is that if the anemic offense doesn’t perform well this week against an Eagles defense that forces turnovers that recently added veteran running back Robert Quinn, it’s curtains for offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Good luck to him. The Steelers have a turnover ratio of less than 2 this season with 10 takeaways and 12 turnovers, including nine interceptions.

“When you look at them, I don’t think their record is a reflection of who they are in terms of talent,” said Haason Reddick, who leads the Eagles with 4.5 sacks. “This is the first year without Big Ben, and I think they’re trying to find themselves without him. He’s been their starting quarterback for a long time, so I think they’re trying to find that. They have incredible talent with their wide receiver corps, a Pro Bowl running back in Harris, and you’ve got Pickens … and Pickett the QB. You watch him on tape and he’s making incredible throws. And he’s using his feet. He’s getting out of the pocket. He’s extending plays. He’s very good inside the pocket. That’s what I see with him. I think he’s going to be a good challenge. Their record doesn’t tell who they are.”

Not only do the Eagles lead the league with a 12-plus turnover differential, but they also have two NFL giveaways. They rank second in the league with 14 takeaways. They are the first NFL team since 1940 with 14 or more takeaways and two or fewer in the first six games of a season.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts is looking for his 10th straight regular-season win as the Eagles’ starter, the longest active streak in the NFL and tied for the longest streak in franchise history. A win Sunday and the Eagles will be 10-10 according to Hurts. Hurts has compassion for Tomlin.

“They’re a great football team, well coached,” Hurts said of the Steelers. “I have a lot of respect for coach Mike T. I think with a team like this, they play hard. And I think it’s a very good football team. They play good defense. For us I think we have to be ready for them to give us different looks. And we have to execute it.”

Tomlin is making no excuses in the post-Big Ben era. Roethlisberger certainly had his struggles in later years, the quick starting to wear down to painful ends.

“I don’t know if I’ve evaluated him exclusively,” Tomlin said. “I know that every year has a different set of challenges, and my job is to manage the multitude of variables in each group. So I look at it that way from a point of view of totality. It’s important that we win games and build on our strengths and work to minimize our weaknesses, whatever they may be. Therefore, these variables are continuously changing. I always feel like I’m in transition.”


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