The preseason continues to drag along as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles will play in a relatively meaningless exhibition at Heinz Field this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. EDT. With the Steelers facing another NFC opponent, we got to spend some time learning about what to expect from this Eagles team as they make the cross-state trip to Pittsburgh.
We sat down with Bleeding Green Nation's (SB Nation's Eagles site) editor Brandon Gowton to talk about the upcoming matchup, and even had him try to give us a prediction for the preseason game.
Who is one offensive Eagles player to watch out for?
Third string tight end Trey Burton has had a great training camp. He's quietly one of the team's best pass catching threats, which isn't saying much. The Eagles didn't give him a lot of looks in the first preseason game but that could change this time around. Philadelphia likes to mix things up and split him out wide at times.
Who is one defensive Eagles player to watch out for?
Steven Means is a player the Eagles signed away from Houston's practice squad during the 2015 season. The Eagles ran a 3-4 defense at the time so he was brought in as an outside linebacker but he's looked good at 4-3 defensive end for the Birds. Means had a strip-sack last year and he also pressured Mike Glennon into throwing a bad interception. Keep an eye on how the Steelers offensive line handles the second string pass rusher.
How do fans feel about the Eagles' outlook this year? What's an acceptable finish?
I generally think most fans realize this is a weird year for the Birds. Sam Bradford is a lame duck starting quarterback. It feels like only a matter of time before he gets hurt and/or benched and then it's Carson Wentz time. Some fans are more optimistic and things the Eagles can compete in a weak NFC East.
I don't think the record the Eagles finish with is what necessary makes the season acceptable. If the Eagles go 8-8 with Bradford and they're able to trade him for a draft pick after the season, that would be nice for the team. Alternatively, going 5-11 with Wentz but having him show good potential along the way could be even better. Again, it's a weird year.
With the Chip Kelly era officially over in Philadelphia, is there hope for the future of the Eagles, or is there going to be a re-building process?
Wentz symbolizes hopes because he's the Eagles' best shot at having a franchise quarterback since the days of Donovan McNabb. The feeling here is you can't truly compete without one of the best passers in the league, and maybe Wentz can climb to that level for the Eagles. It's going to take time, though. He might not even play much as a rookie. And even if he does, he doesn't have a great supporting cast to work with. The Eagles lack talent all over the offense. Wentz can't be expected to save the franchise right away.
Who did the Eagles end up selecting with the 5th round pick they received from the Steelers in the Brandon Boykin trade? Will he make the team?
The Eagles ended up drafting Halapoulivaati Vaitai with Pittsburgh's pick. You probably think I'm making that name up, but I can assure you the man they call "Big V" is real. I'd say he's a lock to make the roster following the expected 10-game suspension of Lane Johnson and the Eagles' recent decision to trade away backup tackle/guard Dennis Kelly. Vaitai isn't ready to start any time soon, but he could develop into a starter or a swing tackle off the bench in the future.
Bonus: Let's go with a score prediction to make things interesting...
Carson Wentz isn't playing, so that means the Eagles will play McLeod Bethel-Thompson a lot near the end of the game. MBT was terrible for the Dolphins last summer (0 TD, 4 INT) so I'm thinking he could struggle and help the Steelers win. Pittsburgh takes it, 24-17.