Five Keys For the Eagles Against the Steelers
5. Demetress Bell - The Eagles announced that Demetress Bell will start at left tackle over King Dunlap, who is healthy enough to dress. It remains to be seen whether Bell can hang onto the starting job beyond this week, but the Steelers are likely to test him. Can he hold up?
4. Willingness to Adjust Defensive Gameplan - The Eagles defensive coaching staff has not shown much of a penchant for changing their coverage scheme during a game, even if the opposing offense is taking advantage. Rookie Brandon Boykin has been stuck covering the Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald and the Giant's Victor Cruz. The Steelers have talked trash about Boykin and are likely to try to get Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace lined up on him. Will the Eagles adjust?
3. Special Teams Coverage - The Eagles have given up a lot of big returns this year, and continue making roster moves to try to improve. The most recent was the release of linebacker Brian Rolle to sign linebacker Adrian Moten, who is better in coverage. I expect a close game. Can the Eagles avoid giving up any big returns that could swing momentum and field position?
2. Recognizing and Reacting to Blitzes - The Steelers 3-4 defense can send blitzes from a wide variety of angles, which means the Eagles face a tough challenge, the burden of which falls primarily on Michael Vick and Dallas Reynolds, his center making his third NFL start. The two will be responsible for working together and communicating in a loud environment to recognize blitzes and adjust blocking schemes accordingly.
1. The Roethlisberger Rules - The Steelers quarterback can extend plays with his knack for avoiding sacks, which has more to do with his strength than his speed.
The first rule is for the defensive line: never assume a tackle of Big Ben is complete until he’s on the ground. Due to his size and strength, Big Ben often steps out of tackles and extends plays. The Eagles can’t allow this to happen too often.
The second, and most important, rule is for the secondary – stick to coverage until Roethlisberger actually crosses the line of scrimmage. Roethlisberger isn’t fast enough to burn the Eagles with huge plays on scrambles,but he can certainly do it through the air while buying time.
Ryan Messick covers the Eagles for 97.3 ESPN FM. Follow him on Twitter.