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October 26, 2022

Eagles vs. Steelers: Five matchups to watch

Eagles NFL
102522KennyPickett Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

Steelers QB Kenny Pickett

The Pittsburgh Steelers last had a losing season in 2003, but after a 2-5 start and a league-worst point differential of -55 through the first seven weeks of the season, that incredible run is soon likely coming to an end. Here are our five matchups to watch.

1) The Steelers' trio of wide receivers vs. the Eagles' secondary

The Steelers have a talented set of wide receivers in George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool.

Pickens is a second-round rookie who has gotten at least six targets in each of the Steelers' last four games. Over that four-game span, he has 21 catches for 273 yards and 1 TD. He also made this ridiculous catch against the Browns:

Pickens has good size at 6'3, 200, and he has outstanding body control and ball skills, as evidenced by the above catch, as well as this TD catch against the Dolphins below.

He is only going to continue to get better as the season progresses.

Johnson is more of the Steelers' high-volume guy, as he has 67 targets so far this season, 23 more than any other player on the team. He made the Pro Bowl last season after catching 107 passes for 1161 yards and 8 TDs. He is off to a slower start in 2022, as he only has 38 catches for 337 yards and 0 TDs through the first 7 games.

And finally, there's Claypool, who has bouts of inconsistency, but can be handful when he's playing well, as the Eagles found out in 2020 when Claypool had a four-touchdown afternoon against them.

The Steelers won't have Nate Gerry to pick on this weekend.


The Eagles' fivesome of Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Avonte Maddox, Marcus Epps, and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is among the best in the NFL. When the Eagles match up in man, it's never this simple but I like Slay on Pickens, Bradberry on Claypool, and Maddox on Johnson.

2) The Eagles' linebackers vs. Kenny Pickett's legs

Against the Cardinals earlier this season, the Eagles occasionally used a spy, typically Kyzir White, on Kyler Murray. Their edge rushers were also tasked with containing Murray within the pocket on their pass rushes.

The Eagles don't have to be quite as careful in trying to contain Pickett, but they do need to be aware of his ability as a runner and as a passer who can make plays with his arm while on the run outside of the pocket.

On third and long situations, I think I'd be more willing to sit back in zone coverages and make Pickett beat me with his arm from the pocket if I were Jonathan Gannon.

3) Where might the Eagles go feastin'?

The Steelers' offensive line is thought of as one of the worst in the NFL. It looks like this:

 Dan MooreKevin Dotson Mason Cole James Daniels Chukwuma Okorafor 

The Eagles should have matchup advantages across the board against this group, but in my opinion, the weaker side is on the left, with Moore at LT and Dotson at LG. Those two guys have combined for 12 penalties on the season. Dotson was the recipient of death threats from psychopathic Steelers fans after he had a bad game against the Buccaneers.

Not to get on a high horse or anything here, but if you ever feel the need to threaten the life of an athlete because they had a bad game, f****** grow up and get a life.

Anyway, #FeastinMeter: 8 turkey legs 🍗🍗🍗🍗🍗🍗🍗🍗

4) The Eagles' offensive line vs. the (likely) T.J. Watt-less Steelers' defensive line

Watt was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2021, and he earned three straight first-team All-Pro nods in 2019, 2020, and 2021. He had 22.5 sacks in 2021, 15.0 in 2020, 14.5 in 2019, and 13.0 in 2018. From 2018 to 2021, Watt led the NFL with 65 sacks. A list of the NFL's sack leaders during that span:

Player Sacks 
T.J. Watt 65.0 
Aaron Donald 59.0 
Myles Garrett 51.5 
Cameron Jordan 47.5 
Chandler Jones 43.5 
Chris Jones 41.0 
Shaquil Barrett 40.5 
Robert Quinn 38.5 
DeForest Buckner 36.0 
Khalil Mack 36.0 

In summary, he's pretty good. #Analysis.

Unfortunately for the Steelers, Watt went on IR Week 2 with a pectoral injury. It was looking like a possibility that he would return in time for this matchup against the Eagles, but he had a scope to clean out his knee a couple weeks ago, delaying his return. The Steelers have their bye Week 9, so Watt's more realistic timeframe for return is probably Week 10.

To say that the Steelers have produced a lot of sacks as a team over the last five years would an massive understatement:

Steelers defense Sacks NFL rank 
2021 55 
2020 56 
2019 54 
2018 52 
2017 56 

Their streak of leading the league in sacks is going to come to an end in 2022, as they only have 12 through their first seven games. Only six teams have fewer.

The Steelers still have some good players in Cameron Heyward (2 sacks, 1 FF) and Alex Highsmith (6.5 sacks, 2 FF), but the Eagles have played several better defensive fronts this season.

5) Special teams

The Eagles are the far more talented team in this matchup, and double-digit favorites. They don't need to outplay the Steelers on special teams, but they cannot afford a big mistake. The special teams player of note in this matchup is Gunner Olszewski, who Pittsburgh signed this offseason away from the Patriots. Olszewski has averaged a lofty 12.0 yards per return on 74 career returns, and he was a first-team All-Pro returner in 2020.

However, Olszewski has struggled this season, fumbling twice, and getting replaced by Steven Sims as the primary return man. With Sims hurt, Olszewski will likely resume handling return duties. Again, the Eagles should be happy with a stalemate on special teams, but there could also be opportunities to capitalize against Steelers mistakes as well. 

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