After a shaky 1-2 start, the Pittsburgh Steelers went into the bye week just looking to get healthy.
Injuries have plagued the Steelers in a few key positions before the season started. This week will be a new look for the Steelers as they take on a tough Philadelphia Eagles team at home.
At the running back position, Pittsburgh will return Rashard Mendenhall this week.
Mendenhall will look to improve the Steelers run game in any way possible and it has nowhere to go but up. At this point the Steelers are at a league worst 2.6 yards per attempt on the ground.
In order to slow down the Eagles pass rush this week Pittsburgh will have to find a way to be successful on early downs with the run game. Running the ball successfully will take some heat off Ben Roethlisberger, who will face two of the league’s toughest cornerbacks.
The Eagles’ Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are known to shut down teams passing attacks. On the other hand Roethlisberger has completed nearly 69 percent of his passes with an 8-1 TD-INT rate. Big Ben goes into this week boasting the NFL’s second best quarterback passer rating.
Defensively the Steelers have struggled to some degree, at least on the road. The lone home game against the Jets showed a stout Steelers defense.
The return of James Harrison appears to be imminent. Pittsburgh is currently tied for 29th with just five sacks on the season. No question, Harrison will improve that number immediately.
While Harrison was out Chris Carter filled in. Many expected Carter to drop into coverage and allow Lamar Woodley to apply the pressure from the other side. The Steelers lack of pressure has only added to the problems in the secondary and a lack of turnovers.
With just one interception Pittsburgh has to find a way to force more turnovers. On the back end Pittsburgh will play their first game of the season with all their starters.
Troy Polamalu will return to the lineup after missing the last two games with a strained calf. Polamalu played the first week against Denver, but Ryan Clark was out due to the effects altitude has on his sickle-cell condition.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will be excited to have all the pieces of his puzzle back. He will need them against players like DeSean Jackson and former Pitt Panther running back LeSean McCoy. What he is not excited about is playing a mobile quarterback like Michael Vick.
Vick has always created problems for defensive coaches because of his athleticism. He is very quick and has a strong arm to go with it. However, Vick has just four passing touchdowns and six interceptions.
This week’s match-up could be a big opportunity for the Steelers in the turnover margin.
Note: These cross state rivals have actually played only two regular season games since 2001. Pittsburgh won in 2004 and Philly won in 2008.