It’s the bye week. The Steelers are finishing up practice on Wednesday to then take a break from being at the facility before returning next week to prepare for the second half of their 2022 season. But with no injury reports or the need to focus on the upcoming opponent, I find myself thinking about some “outside of the box” questions.
Since the Steelers just came off their 35–13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles where they were defeated handily, I got to thinking about the history of these two franchises. While a lot was made over the last week about how the Steelers had not won in Philadelphia since 1965, these two franchises I have an even closer relationship the farther they go back. In 1943, during World War II, these two franchises combined together to form one team for a season. Although it was not their official name, this team has been referred to throughout history as the Steagles.
When I got to thinking about the formation of these two teams coming together, I asked myself how would that work if the Steelers and Eagles were forced to come together right now, at the midpoint of the 2022 season?
As I thought about what this team would look like as they combined the historic franchise of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the current number one team in the NFC in the Philadelphia Eagles, I focused on the starting lineup. But the more I thought about it, there weren’t very many members of the Steelers that I thought would be included.
As I went deeper into the subject, I reached out to my fellow staff members at BTSC to ask their opinions. We ended up with a very similar list of players that we thought would start from the Steelers, and there weren’t very many. As I tried to come up with a comprehensive list, I didn’t really know how to break the tie if I thought it was close between two players. In order to do that, I ultimately looked at the two player’s Pro Football Focus (PFF) rankings and let that be the tiebreaker. No, I did not force the use of PFF to determine the whole thing, but ultimately helped push me one way or the other if I thought some players were close.
When figuring out my final numbers, I ended up ignoring special teams. First, I have no clue how to figure out who is the better long snapper. Although Jake Elliott is a good kicker, I still go with Chris Boswell and the numbers do back it up. When it came to punter, whatever “Nameless Grey Face” the Philadelphia Eagles have on their team I already gave the go ahead. So that was a quick break down a special teams, but I didn’t include them in the final numbers.
Rather than go through and look at every single position, many of which are dominated by the Eagles, I’m simply going to look at positions where I believe the Steelers would have a player in the starting lineup.
Wow, there was not much going for the Steelers here. I have it figured that the Steelers #1 wide receiver, whether you personally believe that to be Diontae Johnson or George Pickens, would at least be the #3 wide receiver on the Steagles. But with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, there was no way I could put two Steelers in the top three.
The next position where the Steelers could have someone as a starter was tight end. Comparing Pat Freiermuth to Dallas Goedert had me looking towards going to the tiebreaker (which would have slightly gone to Goedert). But then I thought of something else. Instead, since I was going to include an extra defender as a starter in the form of a slot cornerback, I’m giving the offense two starting tight ends as well as three starting wide receivers. For that reason, no decision had to be made between the two players in Pat Freiermuth is in the starting lineup.
After moving through quarterback and running back and realizing there was nothing to be had there, I finished up with the offensive line. Could one of the Steelers lineman make it as a starter on the Eagles? In comparing them by overall position and not worrying about which side of the line it was, the only player for the Steelers that came close was guard James Daniels. After consulting the PFF rankings, I found that assumption to be correct and James Daniels was the lone representative from the Steelers offensive line.
Offensive starters: 3 of 12
Going to the side of the ball where the Steelers have more strength, I thought perhaps it would just be a sprinkling in of the Eagles. But not this season. Philadelphia is one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, but even with that said Cam Heyward is Cam Heyward and he would still be a starter.
When I went to edge rusher, I originally pulled out T.J. Watt because he’s not on the Steelers 53-man roster at this time. But when looking at the numbers, there is an argument that Alex Highsmith is very close to being one of the first two players on the field. For this reason, I decided it did not matter if it would be Watt or Highsmith, but it would definitely count as one because T.J. Watt would be the guy anyway.
Looking at inside linebacker, it appeared that Myles Jack would get the nod over Kyzir White to play next to T.J. Edwards. When I went to do the tiebreaker it seemed that Jack was the winner. But after figuring in the scores from the Eagles game, one in which Jack was the lowest-graded player on the Steelers, White moved significantly ahead and the Steelers were shut out at the position.
In the secondary, I thought the Steelers would be shut out at all three cornerback positions. An argument could be made for Cam Sutton being the slot cornerback, but it’s hard to make the case since that’s not where he’s been playing the majority of his snaps this year. Taking this and the Myles Jack toss up into account, I’m going to go ahead and give this one to the Steelers since the last one went to Philadelphia. But there was no way the Steelers were going to move ahead of the two starting outside corners of the Eagles.
And to finish up the secondary, both safety spots went to Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Checking in with PFF to make sure I wasn’t crazy, the numbers weren’t even close.
Defensive starters: 5 of 12
So for my part of this exercise, one which I gave 12 starters each side of the ball, I have the Steelers taking up 8 of the 24 starting positions on offense and defense. That’s 1/3 of the starters being from the Steelers and 2/3 of the starters being from the Eagles.
So what does that tell us?
For me, it says those people commenting in my articles following the game Sunday that said “this is 100% on the coaches” are speaking out of emotion and not reality. Don’t get me wrong, the coaches do not get a pass for what happened in Philadelphia on Sunday. But obviously the Eagles’ roster is better than the Steelers at this time. So I think that the only reason the Steelers lost was because of their coaches seems a bit of an overreaction.
I wonder if the same people would have put the win 100% on the coaches had they pulled off the huge upset since the Steelers roster is the weaker one at this time...
The good thing about the Steelers roster is that a lot of players are young. Just because Miles Sanders is playing them better than Najee Harris right now, it doesn’t mean it will stay that way by the conclusion of the season. In looking at Kenny Pickett and Jalen Hurts, how great would it be for Steelers fans if Pickett eventually got into that conversation of being the better quarterback? It’s just not there now.
So what do you think? How did I do picking the starters? Would you have anybody else? Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.