The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t have to travel far for their first preseason game of the 2018 season. A short flight to Philadelphia has them facing the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles in Week 1 of the meaningless game series on the NFL schedule.
The first preseason game usually brings with it plenty of questions, yet not a lot of answers. So, I went to the man, Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation, to ask him key questions about the upcoming exhibition game.
Take a look at his answers below, and check out all of the tremendous work at Bleeding Green Nation leading up to, and after, the game Thursday night:
1. How long should we expect to see the Eagles’ starters, if any play at all? Who has already been ruled out?
Doug Pederson wouldn’t reveal how long he plans to play his starters on Thursday night. If the past two years of his coaching tenure are any indication, the starters should play around 10 snaps at most.
The Eagles haven’t officially ruled any players out but it seems like both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles won’t be suiting up against Pittsburgh. That means it’ll likely be Nate Sudfeld starting at quarterback for Philadelphia. He’ll get a good chunk of playing time before fourth string passer Joe Callahan takes over.
Former Steelers receiver Mike Wallace will probably be out since he hasn’t participated in practice this week. Fellow former Steelers receiver Markus Wheaton might be active for the game.
2. What player(s) are the Eagles faithful excited to see this preseason?
Rookie tight end Dallas Goedert and 2017 second-round pick Sidney Jones are the young players everyone will be watching closely. The 6-5, 260 pound Goedert has been a monster in the red zone during offseason practices. Now it’s time to see if he can do it in the games. Jones is intriguing because he missed nearly his entire rookie season due to the Achilles injury he suffered leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft. Jones has been seeing a lot of time in the nickel corner role during camp. It’ll be interesting to see if he can live up to the hype of being a player who might’ve been a top 15 pick if he never got hurt at his 2017 pro day.
3. The Eagles won a Super Bowl (still can’t believe it). Are expectations now Super Bowl or bust?
In some ways, it feels like the Eagles can never disappoint us again. They won the Super Bowl. I legitimately thought I might go my whole life without seeing them do that. I’ll be forever grateful.
Now, ask me how I feel about the disappointment thing right after the game if the Eagles lose in Week 1. I’m sure that complacency isn’t going to last forever.
It’s hard to say the Eagles not repeating as Super Bowl champions would be a disaster. It’s just so hard to do. But yes, there’s certainly an expectation for them to repeat. One could argue they’re very much in a unique position to do so. They won the Super Bowl despite missing their MVP caliber quarterback (Carson Wentz), their future Hall of Fame left tackle (Jason Peters), one of their best offensive weapons (Darren Sproles), their stud middle linebacker (Jordan Hicks), and their special teams captain (Chris Maragos). These players will now be back in 2018. And it’s not just that their return on the field that’s valuable. These guys are important leaders in the locker room. This might help the team fight off complacency since those guys want to make it back to the Super Bowl and actually play in the game this time around.
4. Are there any positions where the Eagles have a ton of talent, and someone will be on the open market come Week 1 who could be snagged by another NFL team? What are those positions, and who are the players?
The Eagles have quite a few positions like this. There’s a good battle going on for the fifth and sixth receiver jobs, for example. If Wheaton does win one of those, he’ll be back on the street. Otherwise there could be a nice depth guy like Bryce Treggs, Greg Ward Jr., or Rashard Davis who shakes free. Chance Warmack should be available this summer, whether that’s in the form of him getting traded or cut. You could do worse at backup guard. The Eagles have more cornerbacks than they know what to do with. D.J. Killings has the makings of a backup nickel corner. A linebacker like LaRoy Reynolds or Joe Walker could be useful to a team looking for depth. Teams starved for pass rushers will take a look at Steven Means or Joe Ostman if they become available.
I’d expect the Eagles to have a couple of their final cuts claimed on waivers.
5. What do Eagles fans think of the Steelers/Pittsburgh fans? We all know the Flyers and Penguins hate each other, but what about the NFL variety?
I feel pretty neutral towards the Steelers. I’d think most Eagles fans feel the same way, except for those who live in the middle of Pennsylvania (such as State College) and have to interact with Steelers fans more often. Even then, it’s hard to say there’s a real rivalry between the two teams considering how infrequently they play each other. And if it comes down to Patriots or the Steelers in the AFC, as it often does, I’d rather see New England lose.
One thing I will note here is that it never works out well for the Steelers when they come east. The Steelers are 0-9 in Philadelphia since 1966.
Extra Credit - Score Prediction?
Hmm … let’s say 20-17, Eagles win.