Through four weeks, the Eagles lead the league in sacks with 17, and it all starts up front with their highly talented defensive line that has deep depth. The Eagles' defensive line is where it all starts for Philadelphia's defense and Mike Tomlin is certainly aware of their unit.
"Onto Philadelphia, I think when you look at them and where they are as a football team in a recent rise to the top of the NFC East, a catalyst for that is their defensive front and the pressure they put on opposing quarterbacks," Tomlin said today during his weekly press conference. "I think they have 13 sacks over the last two football games, I thought they really took over that Bengal game toward the end and allowed that game to end in a tie with a dominant rush performance by the likes of Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham. I saw the same thing this past weekend watching them play, but it goes beyond Cox and Graham. They have a seven- and eight-man rotation that’s a formidable one."
A part of that deep rotation on the Eagles' defensive line is former Steeler Javon Hargrave, who signed a three-year, $39 million deal with Philadelphia this past offseason.
"They run a lot of fresh people at you," Tomlin said. "Malik Jackson, Javon Hargrave, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, they round out the interior element of the rush. They have some quality young players on the perimeter that supplement Graham. I think it starts there for us. If we want to have the type of rhythm that we need to have to have a winning performance, we have to neutralize that front, not only in terms of blocking and what they’re capable of from a pass rush standpoint—they lead the NFL in sacks—but handling their potential disruption in the run game. They’re penetrators. They’re disrupters. They pick off pullers. They create unblocked linebackers at the point of attack."
The Eagles' front will be the toughest test for the Steelers' offensive line thus far this season and it's imperative that they keep Ben Roethlisberger off his back, in addition to creating holes for James Conner and company.
"We have to do a good job of neutralizing that group, covering them up and working to minimize their impact on the game," Tomlin said. "I think it’s also worth noting that this is the group that is also starting to provide the way that produces the turnovers for them. It happened last week in San Fran and allowed them to secure victory. I would imagine they’re excited about the rhythm they’re establishing in that regard."
Tomlin said the Eagles have utilized Hargerve differently to how they used him when he was in Pittsburgh.
"You know, they’re a different structured group than we are. They’re a four-down group, so [Javon Hargrave]’s playing right defensive tackle," Tomlin said. "He doesn’t play nose guard for those guys. They have right and left defensive tackles, and they play a lot of people. They rotate as many as seven or eight guys. He’s been splitting a lot of time with Malik Jackson. Both guys have provided a quality rush for them on the interior along with Fletcher Cox. We are going to have our hands full neutralizing that group."