The Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles will square off in the official Week 1 of the NFL Preseason, and the game will be played at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. There typically isn’t much to discuss with the opponent prior to an exhibition game, but when Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation emailed me wanting to do a Q&A I obliged.
Check out the Q&A below, including an update on how Steven Nelson is doing in his new digs, and be sure to check out all of the latest news and notes on the other side of the fence at Bleeding Green Nation.
Who are some Philadelphia Eagles rookies/young players Steelers fans should keep an eye on Thursday night?
Let’s start with the obvious one: Jalen Hurts (No. 1). The Eagles’ second-year quarterback has been up and down in camp. In his defense, it’s not like he can really show off his mobility in practice settings when the defense isn’t allowed to touch him. Hurts should at least get a drive or two, if not more. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares against a Steelers defense that was one of the best in the NFL last year.
On defense, keep an eye out for Josh Sweat (No. 94). Steelers fans might not need to look too hard to find him as he’s been living in the backfield this summer. Not unlike Hurts, the expectation is that his playing time will be limited. But he could still very well manage to pick up a sack or big quarterback hit.
Two more under-the-radar players to watch include Quez Watkins (No. 16) and Zech McPhearson (No. 27). Watkins is having the best training camp of any Eagles receiver but isn’t currently running with the starters. Don’t be surprised if he has a highlight catch or two. McPhearson has really flashed by making plays on the ball.
What are the expectations for the Eagles this season? Are their Super Bowl aspirations, or just hoping for a playoff berth and see if they can make a run?
My expectations for the 2021 Eagles season are relatively low. It starts with the quarterback dynamic. I’m not fully out on Hurts by any means; I’m willing to give him a chance. But the reality is he’s entering this year in the discussion as one of the worst starting QBs in the league after struggling as a rookie. It’s possible he improves, yes, but I’m just not seeing any kind of night and day difference so far. Beyond Hurts, Nick Sirianni is totally unproven as a head coach and play-caller. Then there’s the fact that their roster just isn’t very great as they return a lot of players from a 4-11-1 season.
I do think the Eagles can win the NFC East, in part because the division just isn’t very great. But I don’t think they’re making any kind of serious postseason run. One playoff win is probably the ceiling for this group.
By Jeffrey Lurie’s own admission, the Eagles are viewing 2021 as a “real transition period” that is “not unlike 2016” when Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz were in their first seasons. This season isn’t about being all in to win it all as much as it is to find answers and lay the foundation for a new great era of Eagles football. At least, that’s the goal.
How is Steven Nelson doing so far in Philadelphia?
Pretty good! He’s clearly not a superstar or anything like that. But he looks like a good starting CB2, which is exactly what the Eagles signed him to be. Nelson has gotten beat deep down the field a couple times but he’s also been active in knocking passes down. In theory, Nelson should benefit from the Eagles sticking Darius Slay on opponent’s No. 1 wide receivers.
I doubt it, but if any starters are expected to see time Thursday night, who would it be? Any chance the Steelers’ backup defense goes against Hurts?
For what it’s worth, Sirianni said we can “expect everybody to play for the most part.” Based on this, I’m guessing we’ll see the first team unit get a drive or two or three. Even then, though I’m thinking the Eagles will be extra cautious about sitting guys out. They’ve taken a real conservative approach to injuries in camp by keeping practices shorter than we’re used to seeing.
I’m guessing Hurts will be out before the Steelers’ backup defense is in but maybe Sirianni will leave the offense in to build some confidence if they can’t do anything against Pittsburgh’s starters.
The Eagles have dominated the Steelers in Philadelphia, I’m not going to ask you a prediction, but what exactly do you think is the main reason they have been so consistent against Pittsburgh on home turf?
Indeed, the Eagles are 9-0 in their last nine home games against the Steelers. One has to go all the way back to 1965 to find Pittsburgh’s last win in Philly. Of course, that looks worse than it really is since the matchup doesn’t happen that often. Probably just some well-timed games for the Eagles in terms of them being hot, like they were early in 2016. Or their NFC Championship Game season in 2008. If there is a common theme, maybe it’s that they always get up for the game? Like, they’re never looking past the team that plays in the same state as them and has more historical success. It could also be about proving that Wawa is better than Sheetz, which we all know is true.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season!