Depending on who you believe, the distance between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia is 300 miles, although either team’s fans could be in each other backyard’s regardless of where they live in Pennsylvania.
It’s been hard, if not impossible, for the Philadelphia Eagles to compete with the legacy of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pittsburgh boasts six Super Bowl titles, whereas Philadelphia has yet to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Still, fans of both teams are adamant in their support of their team, especially in regards to the “other team” in Pennsylvania.
The Steelers and Eagles have been in different conferences since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
Due to NFL scheduling their storied rivalry will only be revisited every four years on the current formula. Many people in Pennsylvania get excited every four years around the fall time and it hardly has to do with an election.
This meeting between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh carries a heavy weight like most games, but the players in their respective locker rooms knows what a victory would mean to the team and fan base. Even Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was quoted as saying there is a general “hatred” between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
I’m sure the only thing Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin hates, is his team’s 1-2 record. With both their losses coming on the road, against the Denver Broncos and an overtime loss against the Oakland Raiders, there is some solace knowing Sunday’s tilt will be played in Heinz Field.
Pittsburgh is coming off their bye week and since Tomlin has been head coach, they are 4-1 after their week off. This is a must win, especially with their AFC North division rivals Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals both reeling off 3-1 records to open the season.
Philadelphia has many problems of their own, yet they carry a 3-1 record into the Keystone State match up. So how does a team that has been outscored by 17 points in their first four games post such a good record? Easy.
Philadephia’s three wins have come by a combined four points, an NFL record. Troubling still is that quarterback Michael Vick has been knocked down 44 times, which are 18 more than the next quarterback. Philadelphia needs to improve on their pass protection in order to be successful.
Both teams have a chance to make a statement with a win on Sunday. Philadelphia can prove their 3-1 record is not a fluke and that they are truly contenders. Pittsburgh wants to wipe away the memory of their Week 3 overtime loss to the Raiders and climb back into the playoff hunt in the AFC. Many things will happen on Sunday, here’s three of them:
1. Pittsburgh’s defense has been unable to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks this year, totaling five sacks and only one interception. With injured starters James Harrison and Troy Polamalu returning to action, look to see increased pressure on Vick.
Vick has already been sacked 11 times on the season with Phildelphia’s offensive line struggling with protection. Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau loves to disguise his blitzes in their 3-4 scheme and frequently will send five or six men after the quarterback.
Philadelphia has the talent on the outsides, with wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, to make them pay. Polamalu will have to have a strong game for Pittsburgh to have a chance.
2. Philadelphia has turned the ball over more than any team in the NFL during the first quarter of the season, tallying six interceptions and six fumbles. Last week they protected the ball against the New York Giants and didn’t commit a turnover, yet still needed Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes to miss his game-winning field goal attempt.
For Philadelphia to be competitive, they will need to protect the ball again. Giving Roethlisberger a short field to operate is a recipe for disaster. Vick needs to read his progressions, call audibles at the line and make quick decisions to counter the pressure that he will be seeing, or he will be in for a long day.
3. Although both teams boast Pro Bowl quarterbacks, the focus will be on the running game this weekend. Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall is back from an extended stay on the injured reserve and ready to contribute. Pittsburgh desperately needs help in the backfield, as they a posting a paltry 65.0 yards a game on the ground.
Philadelphia has a strong front seven, so look for Tomlin and Pittsburgh to call a lot of running plays from a three wide receiver set. This will spread the defense across the field and allow Mendenhall to find the holes.
Philadelphia will also commit to the running game on Sunday, which is a formula of success for the Eagles and running back LeSean McCoy. Since becoming the Eagles’ starter at running back,
McCoy has carved a reputation as one of the most dangerous runners in the league. When he totals over 100 yards on the ground, Philadelphia is 10-1 in those games. Success on the ground will also mean pass protection and time for Vick.
Vick has been wildly erratic this short season and that will cause worry for many of the Philly faithful. On the other side of the Susquehanna River, Roethlisberger has been playing light outs. T
hree bold predictions mean nothing without one big one: Pittsburgh 31, Philadelphia 24.