Claypool and Steelers outscore Eagles, Advance to 4-0 for First Time Since 1979
Steelers rookie wideout Chase Claypool had quite a day Sunday afternoon as he exploded for 7 catches for 110 yards and 3 touchdowns. In addition, Claypool added a rushing score, bringing his game total to 4. While the rookie out of Notre Dame starred, it was a balanced offensive attack for Pittsburgh. QB Ben Roethlisberger continued his already stellar 2020 campaign as he threw for 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. As for the ground game, the Steelers tallied 136 yards. RB James Conner led the team in rush attempts with 15, and he turned those carries into 44 yards and a touchdown. The most notable play on the ground came from an unlikely source though, as WR Ray-Ray McCloud took an end-around carry off the right edge for a 58-yard gain. The Pittsburgh offense had to punt just twice on the day as they scored 30 points for the first time since December 2nd of the 2018 season.
The game seemed to be out of reach midway through the 3rd quarter after James Conner punched in a 1-yard touchdown to put his team up 17 points. However, Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz led a furious comeback to get his team right back in the game. Wentz found WRs Greg Ward and Travis Fulgham on back-to-back drives to bring his team to within 2 points of Pittsburgh, and if it was not for Jake Elliott missed field goal, the Eagles would have taken the lead in the 4th quarter. On the ensuing drive, Roethlisberger marched his squad down the field and shut the door once and for all on Philadelphia, as he hit Chase Claypool on a seam route on a 3rd and 8 to put a stamp on the Steelers 4th win on the young season.
While the offense had their way on Sunday, the normally stout Steelers defense had a few struggles. They continue to underperform on 3rd and long situations, most evident on a 74-yard Miles Sanders touchdown run on a 3rd and 9. The pass rush was active early and late but struggled a bit in the 2nd and 3rd quarters against a banged-up Eagles offensive line. They ended up with 5 sacks on the day, reclaiming the league lead in that category at 20. The Pittsburgh secondary had trouble stopping WR Travis Fulgham on Sunday, allowing him to catch 10 passes for 152 yards. However, when HC Mike Tomlin needed it most, they answered the bell. CB Steven Nelson picked off Wentz twice on the day, one of which all but sealed the game for the Steelers late in the 4th quarter. Along with Nelson, Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt had quite a day as he had 1.5 sacks and 5 tackles on Sunday. One of those tackles was for a loss, and he also notched 3 addition QB hits on Carson Wentz.
The win over the Eagles was not glamorous at some points, and that includes a couple of casualties for the Steelers. WR Diontae Johnson left the game in the first half with a back injury and did not return. On the other side of the ball, LB T.J Watt missed a couple of drives after he hurt his knee, but he was able to finish the game. Pittsburgh will hope that neither injury will spell trouble later on in the season, but they have to be thrilled about being undefeated through the first quarter of the season. As for Philadelphia, dropping to 1-3-1 on the year was not the start they were hoping for. The injury report will only grow larger this week as RT Lane Johnson had to get carted off the field with an apparent leg injury. The Eagles will hope to get back WRs Alshon Jeffery and Desean Jackson soon, but they will need to turn their season around in a hurry. Luckily for Philadelphia, the rest of the NFC East is underperforming as well, so all is not lost after a sloppy 5 weeks of play.
Up next for Pittsburgh is a date with the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field next Sunday. The first divisional matchup for the Steelers in 2020 will surely be a contested one, and they will hope that their red-hot passing offense will continue to roll against a bottom-ranked Cleveland pass defense. Weeks 6-8 will be an important stretch for Pittsburgh as they will face 3 teams above .500, but they seemed primed to prove that they are a top team in the AFC alongside Baltimore and Kansas City.