Philadelphia Eagles vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Semi-Coherent Preview

Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) at the line of scrimmage during the fourth quarter in a AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) at the line of scrimmage during the fourth quarter in a AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

A preview of the preseason game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Philadelphia Eagles came away victorious in their first preseason game. As a result, everyone should be happy and feeling positive about the team’s chances this season, right? Not so much.

We didn’t get much of an impression about the first team offense because the starting quarterback only threw a single pass. But we figured the starters weren’t going to get much action last week; What people really wanted to see was rookie Carson Wentz.

So what did we see from Wentz? There were some good plays. There were some bad plays. There was a disturbing recklessness to his play that made Philadelphia Eagles fans hold their breaths. Most prominently, there was a rib injury that will likely cause him to miss the rest of the preseason .

More from Philadelphia Eagles

Last week, I discussed how the absence of Chip Kelly and Tim Tebow was going to make this preseason a lot less exciting than last year’s. With Wentz likely to sit out the rest of the way, there’s even less motivation for many Philadelphia Eagles fans to tune in.

But c’mon; It’s the Eagles! We’re all going to watch anyway.

What’s the deal with the Steelers

The Steelers finished with a 10-6 record in 2015 and made the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Their chances of returning to the postseason are hurt by the multiple key players facing suspensions. Wide receiver Martavis Bryant will be suspended for the entire season, while Le’Veon Bell should miss the first four games. And unless he agrees to speak to the league, it seems that James Harrison may join them.

As for non-suspended players, the Steelers are by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger has consistently been one of the league’s best quarterbacks over his 13 (doesn’t that make me feel old?) seasons in the league.

Discussion of Steelers’ backup quarterbacks

Since Roethlisberger is probably going to be out of the game before halftime, I’ll take a look at the other guys who will line up behind center for the Steelers.

Landry Jones

Philadelphia Eagles
Aug 12, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones (3) warms up on the sidelines against the Detroit Lions during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

When Roethlisberger went down with an injury in 2015, the team turned to Michael Vick. When Vick suffered an injury of his own, Jones received a chance to play. Jones appeared in seven games and played decently, throwing three touchdowns and four interceptions. Apparently that was enough for the team to count on him as the primary backup in 2016.

Bruce Gradkowski

Gradkowski has been in the NFL since 2006, although he’s only started 20 games in that time – none since 2010. In fact, Gradkowski hasn’t even thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2012. That drought is unlikely to end in 2016. Gradkowski suffered a hamstring tear that will keep him out of action for a while.

Dustin Vaughan

After his college career ended, Vaughan has spent time on the practice squad for the Cowboys and Bills. He signed a free agent contract with the Steelers, and thanks to the injury to Gradkowski, it seems he has a decent chance to stick around. Of course, like most third-string quarterbacks, the Steelers’ season is probably over if he needs to play much.

Other Steelers player of note

Philadelphia Eagles
Nov 21, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Temple Owls linebacker Tyler Matakevich (8) reacts after a turnover on downs against the Memphis Tigers at Lincoln Financial Field. The Temple Owls won 31-12. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

You might remember Tyler Matakevich as a standout for Temple University last season. The linebacker was a first-team All-American, won the Chuck Bednarik award, and many consider him to be the greatest player in Temple history.

It’s somewhat surprising that despite those accolades, he wasn’t drafted before the seventh round. He might be smaller than the ideal NFL linebacker, but you’d think that NFL teams would value such a high level of college production.

So will we see the starters?

Doug Pederson says he wants the starters to play well into the second quarter. However, I expect Sam Bradford and company to be out of the game after just a few series.

When he was the Philadelphia Eagles’ coach, Andy Reid tended to have a very quick hook with his starters in the preseason, and would often pull them earlier than planned. Since Pederson has followed Reid’s example in most things, I expect him to do the same.

Roster battle of note

Rookie running back Wendell Smallwood is expected to make his debut on Thursday, and he’s part of a crowded field battling for the backup running back spot. Kenjon Barner, Byron Marshall, and Cedric O’Neal are also vying to back up Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles.

Barner probably looked the best of the bunch in last week’s preseason game, but looking good in the preseason has never been a problem for him. He just can’t seem to replicate that success when given a chance in the regular season. Marshall and O’Neal have impressed in camp, but they’ll have to make some plays in the games if they want to make the team.

Considering that Mathews has trouble staying healthy and Sproles is best suited as a third-down back, whoever wins the competition will likely see plenty of action during the season.

Catching up with the Chipper

Eagles fans might be curious about former head coach Chip Kelly now that he’s moved on to San Francisco. Every so often, I’ll take a look at what Kelly is up to on the West Coast.

The scene: Chip Kelly is in his office when Colin Kaepernick walks in.

Kap: Hey coach.

Chip: Hey! It’s my favorite quarterback!

Philadelphia Eagles
Aug 10, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) passes the ball during the training camp at Kezar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /

Kap: I just wanted to say thanks for showing such patience with me as I work through this dead arm problem.

Chip: No problem, Colin. After all, a dead arm is something all quarterbacks go through this time of year.

Kap: That’s great to hear. I was worried that you might not understand.

Chip: What’s not to understand? I mean, look at Peyton Manning. Every year, he needed to sit out training camp because his arm was tired.

Kap: Really?

Chip: And how about Tom Brady? Isn’t he always complaining about how his arm is dead?

Kap: Oh.

Chip: And what about Aaron Rodgers? He’s always sitting out, right?  And there’s no reason you shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as those guys, right?

Kap: Okay, okay…

Chip: It’s funny though. When I was in Philly, everyone said, “Chip should trade for Kaepernick! He’s exactly the type of quarterback I need for my system!”

Kap: I guess they thought my athleticism would be a good fit.

Chip: Of course! My system doesn’t need an accurate passer, just someone who can run well. In fact, I’ve always thought that having an inaccurate passer was exactly what I needed to succeed. And when you add in the fact that you can’t seem to read a defense? Bam! You’ve got the prototype Chip Kelly quarterback.

Kap: I think I’m going to go now.

Chip: If you ever get through this dead arm thing, we could be the next Walsh and Montana!

Kap: Bye, coach.

Chip: Any time. Now you go rest up that tired arm of yours!

Next: Eagles' Kicker Battles


With a slew of running backs looking to make a positive impression, the Philadelphia Eagles will likely keep the ball on the ground for most of the game. That will give them enough offense to come away with a win.

Eagles 27 – Steelers 17