The Pittsburgh Steelers arrived in Philadelphia yesterday minus their starting running back who was told to stay home following his marijuana possession charge earlier in the day. His absence throws a significant hitch in the Steelers’ giddy-up when it comes to running the no-huddle but Mike Tomlin won’t make any excuses.
LeGarrette Blount is with the team and is expected to play. We shall see…
[UPDATE: Both Bell and Blount are expected to play this evening.]
Either way, this development won’t change what were looking for this evening when the Steelers play the Eagles. Here are the three things we are looking for tonight.
Steelers at Eagles, 730pmET
TV: NFL Network
Radio: WDVE, Steelers Nation Radio
1. Can the defense stop the run? Brett Keisel wasn’t brought back just for beard-grooming tips. This defense has given up over 300 yards rushing in two games. Keisel is with the team but he won’t play tonight. When the season starts September 7th, I expect Keisel to be the starter at defensive end but tonight the entire defense as we know it will be on the field.
They will need to slow the running of Le’Sean McCoy and Darren Sproles tonight and in doing so, they must limit big plays first and foremost. That will start up front with Steve McLendon who needs to be better at the nose. Cam Thomas must also be more consistent as well.
2. Can the no-huddle flourish on the road? Last week the no-huddle offense produced a nice drive that resulted in a touchdown and a two-play drive that resulted in a long TD pass. Earlier this week Ben Roethlisberger said the no-huddle on the road is far different than at home and that makes sense but it can’t be an excuse to not run it.
The Eagles have given up 34 and 42 points in their first two preseason games so I expect the Steelers’ offense to once again put up 14 points or more. Should they go into the third quarter we can bump that total up to 21. The bottom-line is that the offense has to prove it can do well on the road and not just at home.
3. Who separates themselves tonight? Tonight isn’t just a big night for the starters. It’s also a night where guys fighting for roster spots can do something to standout. The Steelers must cut down to 75 players by Tuesday and while some cuts are easy to make others won’t be.
One intriguing area is at linebacker where Chris Carter, Howard Jones and Vic So’Oto are battling to stay on the roster. At cornerback, the starters at set but who shines among Isaiah Green, Antwon Blake and Brice McCain. Green would appear to be the odd man out right now.
There are also battles on the offensive line and at receiver at well. Guys that make plays are guys that make the roster.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteelDad and the website @SCBlitz. Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/steelcityblitz and on Fancred.com. You can hear him weekly during the season on Trib-Live Radio
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