Match up: Philadelphia Eagles (1-2-1) +7 @ Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0)
Location and Time: 1 p.m. EST at Heinz Field
Tidbit: The home team has won each of the last four games between the Eagles and Steelers. Pittsburgh plans to have approximately 5,500 fans in the stadium for the game, marking the first time the Steelers will have fans in the stands this season.
KEY #1: Dominate the edge defensively
The most obvious advantage for the Steelers takes place in the trenches. The Eagles are currently pretty banged up at offensive tackle, with Jason Peters sidelined and Lane Johnson in and out of action with an ankle injury- not to mention star guard Brandon Brooks suffering a preseason achilles tear. As a result, Philly gave Jordan Mailata his first career start at left tackle in Week 4 against San Francisco alongside rookie 4th rounder Jack Driscoll.
Here's Wentz turning the ball over after being forced off his spot by the pass rush. You can see the right tackle Driscoll getting pushed into pocket on this play.
T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree need to be able to take advantage of this mismatch in order to force bad decisions and create turnover opportunities.
KEY #2: Get physical with Philly's receivers
With Desean Jackon, Jaelen Reagor, Alshon Jeffery, Dallas Goedert, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside all sidelined with injury in recent weeks, the Eagles skills group is another area in which they are completely depleted. Given that the Steelers blitz more often than any team in the NFL, they are likely to find themselves in man to man situations regularly, especially with the idea in mind that the Eagles receivers struggle to gain separation.
On this play, you can see 49ers corner Jimmie Ward jamming Eagles receiver Greg Ward on his release. Wentz looks to Ward as his first read and throws the ball, but their timing is disrupted by the physcality, forcing an incompletion.
KEY #3: Target Ebron on 3rd down and in the red zone
Eagles linebacker Nate Gerry has been targeted 19 times this season and has allowed 19 completions for 212 yards. We saw Gerry's inability to cover come to fruition often in Week 4, where tight end George Kittle had 15 receptions against the Eagles.
The 49ers did a great job of forcing Gerry to make plays. On this first down, the Eagles are playing Cover 2 and Gerry is responsible for the middle portion of the field. Kittle runs a quick 10 yard hook, putting pressure on Gerry to make a play on the ball. It results in a first down.
Here's Ebron running a similar concept against Houston. Ebron has been more involved with the offense in recent games, going for 8 receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown combined against the Broncos and Texans.
KEY #4: Get Anthony Mcfarland in space
It was great to see Mcfarland see some action in Week 3. He ran 6 times for 42 yards and caught one ball for 7 yards, showcasing the burst that makes him different than other Steelers runners.
James Conner will still be the featured runner, but anticipate the Steelers getting Mcfarland a few touches on the edges and against linebackers to see if he can break open a big play against a weak unit. This run is his best to this point, breaking through hole created by Villanueva and jetting off past the linebacker for a 20 yard gain.
KEY #5: Capitalize on turnover opportunities
Because of the injuries to the offensive line and skills positions, Carson Wentz has been forced to put the offense on his back on almost every play. Wentz is still extremely dangerous at extending plays as he showcased against the 49ers, but he also has the propensity to force balls into tight windows while trying to make big play.
The Steelers secondary will certainly have a few opportunities to take the ball away against Wentz.
On this play against the Bengals Wentz makes a pre-snap decision to throw back shoulder to Ertz in a one on one situation. He fails to execute and it results in an interception.
And here is Wentz simply trying to do too much against quarters coverage.