By Al Thompson
PITTSBURGH — The Eagles offense scored the most points in a game this season last Sunday, and it wasn’t enough.
The Birds (1-3-1) lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 38-29 at Heinz Field in a game that has been a consistent story through the first five games of the year. The Eagles can’t get all three units — offense, defense and special teams – on the same page for an entire game.
Quarterback Carson Wentz talks every week about the team being right there, ready for something positive to happen and that it is coming. Eagles fans are still waiting.
“I think there are some things to be encouraged about from today,” Wentz said at his post-game video conference. “We’re so close. We’re so close. Finishing some drives offensively, taking care of the football. Defense is so close. Last week, they had some big turnovers and things. It’s right there. We’re right there. Playing against some good football teams, and we can get this thing turned around and I’m confident that we will.”
The Eagles fought back from a 31-14 deficit to the Steelers with 10:32 left in the third quarter and came within two points early in the fourth quarter and actually had the game on the foot of Jake Elliott at the 3:23 mark, when he attempted a 57-yard field goal. The kick had the distance but sliced just wide right.
The short field set up another Steelers touchdown to make the final score 38-29.
Wentz finished 20-of-35 for 258 yards, two touchdown passes and two interceptions. He was sacked five times for 34 yards.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson talked about the trouble his offensive line had dealing with T.J. Watt (three tackles, sack, two QB hurries), Stephon Tuitt (six tackles, 1.5 sacks, three QB hurries), Mike Hilton (eight tackles, sack) and Bud Dupree (.5 sack, two QB hurries).
“We knew going in this is a pressure team,” Pederson said. “They got five guys that really can put pressure. I really thought overall the guys played well. Lane Johnson before he got knocked out with the injury and [Jack] Driscoll came in, I thought they did — really right up until the end there where I think where Bud Dupree came around the left side and got the sack. I thought they held up well. It’s great — it’s a good run defense, so obviously to run the ball is tough. We had the nice draw for the touchdown, which was good. I thought overall they played well. We’ll evaluate it here in the next couple days. But, yeah, held up nice.”
Miles Sanders finished with 80 yards rushing on 11 carries, with 74 of those yards coming on his first-quarter touchdown.
Ben Roethlisberger was brilliant for Pittsburgh (4-0) Sunday, finishing 27-of-34 for 239 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 125.4.
Two stars were born Sunday from each team, both receivers. For the Eagles, Travis Fulgham followed up his outstanding effort against San Francisco with a 13-catch, 152-yard gem that included a 4-yard touchdown with 11:27 left in the fourth quarter.
Rookie receiver Chase Claypool, listed as a backup, torched the Eagles with seven catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns. Claypool added a 2-yard touchdown run to give Pittsburgh a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
There were stretches in the Steelers game Wentz was in a rhythm that has been elusive this year. The 27-year-old at times looked like his old self from 2017. Did he feel that?
“Yeah, I thought offensively, obviously, not the end result that we wanted,” Wentz said. “We left a handful of plays out there. Think offensively we did some good things. We got a good rhythm going. We converted a lot of third downs. Came up short. Obviously, not what we want and how we want to finish, but there are some things we can definitely build on and getting into a rhythm today definitely helped us.”
This week, the offense did well. Last week against San Francisco, the defense was front and center, coming up with three turnovers, five sacks, 15 quarterback hurries and a pick-six. Pederson was asked about his efforts to get a consistent effort and production from the whole team in the same game.
“We haven’t put four quarters, or we haven’t put two sides together, really, three phases, when you think special teams as well.” Pederson said after watching film Sunday night. “Listen, there’s enough, when you watch the tape again today, there’s enough football plays offensively, defensively and even on special teams – we need to be better in the kickoff return game. There’s enough plays out there that we have to continue to show our players and continue to teach and coach. With the amount of players, new players, new faces, young guys that are playing, every game is a new game, and so we’re continuing to coach and get these guys ready to play and try to have complementary football.
“If the defense struggles, the offense needs to pick it up, right? And if the offense struggles, the defense needs to pick them up. So we’re building towards that and we continue to work to hopefully put that all together.” ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii