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Eagles-Steelers: Everything you need to know about Sunday’s big intrastate battle at Heinz Field

Can the Eagles' inexperienced offensive line hold up against the Steelers' blitz? Can the Eagles run the ball on a Steelers defense that is ranked first in the NFL?

Eagles wide receiver Greg Ward, shown running after a catch against the 49ers last Sunday night, is tied for third in the NFL in third-down receptions.
Eagles wide receiver Greg Ward, shown running after a catch against the 49ers last Sunday night, is tied for third in the NFL in third-down receptions.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

The Steelers are well rested after getting an unexpected week off thanks to a coronavirus outbreak in Tennessee.

The Eagles are coming off a Sunday night win against the 49ers on the West Coast that didn’t get them back to Philadelphia until sunrise on Monday morning.

Can the Eagles' inexperienced offensive line hold up against the Steelers' blitz? Can the Eagles run the ball on a Steelers defense that is ranked first in the league?

Can they get pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, who has been sacked just 5 times in 3 games and has the third-quickest snap-to-release average in the league this season? Can they force some more turnovers like they did last week? Can Carson Wentz continue his climb out of an early-season slump?

We’ll find all of that out soon enough. In the meantime, enjoy some other numbers that could go a long way in determining the outcome of the game.

First down

  1. Seventy-two of the Eagles' 126 first-down plays, or 57.1%, have been pass plays. The Steelers have thrown the ball on just 43 of 90 (47.8%) first-down plays.

  2. The Eagles are averaging just 4.7 yards per play on first down. That’s the fourth-lowest average in the league, ahead of only the Bengals (4.6), Broncos (4.5) and Jets (also 4.5). The Steelers are 21st in first-down average (5.3).

  3. Carson Wentz is 31st in first-down passing, with a 65.6 rating. He has a 69.6 completion percentage on first down but has averaged just 6.3 yards per attempt. Five of Wentz’s 7 interceptions have come on first down.

  4. The Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger is seventh in first-down passing (116.5) He is averaging 8.5 yards per attempt on first down and has 3 TDs and no interceptions.

  5. The Eagles are 28th in first-down rush average (3.5). The Steelers are 26th (3.6). The Steelers are second in opponent first-down rush average (2.6). The Eagles are 16th (4.4).

Third down

  1. The Eagles already have 60 third-down attempts this season, which is the third-most in the league. They had a league-high 229 third-down attempts last season. One of their offseason priorities was to play better on first and second down, and reduce the overall number of third-down situations they faced. But they’re on pace for 240 right now. The Steelers, who have played one less game than the Eagles, are averaging the same amount of third downs per game (15).

  2. The Eagles are 14th in third-down success rate (43.3). The Steelers are 21st (40.0). Despite their pass rush and run defense, the Steelers are 19th in third-down defense (42.9). Opposing QBs have a 107.0 third-down passer rating against the Steelers. Houston’s Deshaun Watson completed 9-of-11 third-down passes for 144 yards against the Steelers in Week 1. The Giants' Daniel Jones was 10-for-11 for 91 yards.

  3. Wentz is 26th in third-down passing (61.3). He has a 55.0 completion rate and is averaging just 6.2 yards per attempt with one TD and 2 interceptions on third down. Six of his 14 sacks have come on third down. Just 15 of his 40 third-down pass attempts (37.5%) have resulted in first downs.

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  1. Roethlisberger is eighth in third-down passing (110.8) with a 69.7 completion percentage, 7.9 yards per attempt, 3 TDs and one interceptions. Sixteen of his 33 third-down pass attempts (48.4%) have resulted in first downs.

  2. Roethlisberger has been sacked just 5 times in the Steelers' 3 games. Only one of them has come on third down. Six of the Eagles' NFL-high 17 sacks have come on third down.

  3. The Steelers defense is 25th on third-and-long (7 yards or more). Opponents have converted 9-of-26 chances (34.6%) on them. The problem is the Eagles offense is 22nd on third-and-long. They’ve converted just 7-of-31 third downs of 7 yards or more.

  4. Wide receiver Greg Ward has 18 catches in the first 4 games. Eight have been on third down, and 7 of those 8 have resulted in first downs. He’s tied for 3rd in the league in third-down receptions behind the Chargers' Keenan Allen and the Falcons' Russell Gage, both of whom have 10. He’s tied for second behind Gage in third-down catches for first downs. Gage has 8.

  5. In the last 3 games, opposing quarterbacks have completed 19-of-26 passes for 227 yards and 2 TDs against the Eagles on third down. Something to keep an eye on Sunday.

Personnel groupings

  1. Twenty-five of the Eagles' 31 first-half plays against the 49ers, and 40-of-59 plays overall (67.8%), were run with 11-personnel (1RB, 1TE, 3WR), which is a dramatic switch from the first 2 games of the season, when just 26.5% of their plays were run with 11-personnel. The difference, of course, was tight end Dallas Goedert was healthy then.

  2. Eleven of Miles Sanders' 13 runs against the Niners were with 11-personnel (for 44 yards). He had 2 carries for 2 yards with 12-personnel (1RB, 2TE, 2WR).

  1. Wentz completed 12-of-16 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown against the Niners with 11-personnel. All 3 of his sacks also came with 11-personnel. In the last 2 games, Wentz has a 90.3 passer rating with 11-personnel (67.3 completion percentage, 6.5 yards per attempt, 2 TDs, 1 interception, 5 sacks). His passer rating in the last 2 games with 12-personnel: 32.2 (56.0 completion percentage, 4.0 yards per attempt, no TDs, 2 interceptions, 1 sack).

  2. The Eagles have averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 11-personnel the last 2 games, compared to 3.1 with 12-personnel. FYI: that badly executed end-around with rookie Adrian Killins last week that resulted in a 12-yard loss was run with 11-personnel.

State of the ground games

  1. The Eagles are 18th in rush average (4.2). The Steelers are ninth (4.7).

  2. Steelers running back James Conner has averaged 6.3 yards per carry the last 2 games. He’s also seventh in the league in average yards after contact (3.6).

  3. The Eagles are 16th in rush attempts. They’re averaging 26.7 runs per game. They have a 38.1 run-play percentage in the first 4 games. It was 41.1 last season.

  4. Sanders averaged 5.0 yards per carry in his first 2 games back from his hamstring injury but was held to 3.5 (13-46) by the Niners last week.

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  1. Sanders has 51 of the Eagles' 65 rushing attempts by running backs in the last 3 games. Boston Scott has just 9 carries for 25 yards in the last 3 games. Corey Clement has 5 for 11 yards. It’s worth noting that Killins played 8 snaps last week, while Clement played only 4, though most of them were at wide receiver.

  2. Wentz has been the Eagles' most potent running weapon the last 2 games. He has 10 rushing first downs in the last 2 games and 12 for the season. That’s the third-most rushing first downs in the league among quarterbacks, behind only the Patriots' Cam Newton (15) and the Cardinals' Kyler Murray (13). Wentz has 3 of the Eagles' 4 rushing touchdowns. That’s his career-high.

  3. The Steelers own the No. 1-ranked run defense in the league. They’ve held teams to 54.0 rushing yards per game and 2.7 yards per carry. They’ve allowed just one rushing touchdown in their 3 games.

More good stuff

  1. Last year, Carson Wentz had 18 touchdown passes and just one interception on throws of 0 to 10 yards. So far this year, he’s got zero TDs and 4 INTs on throws at that distance.

  2. In the Eagles' last 2 games, just 24 of Wentz’s 68 aimed pass attempts (doesn’t include throwaways), or 35.3%, were longer than 5 yards.

  3. The Niners' George Kittle had 15 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles on Sunday. It was just the third time in Jim Schwartz’s 52 games as the team’s defensive coordinator that the Eagles gave up 100-plus yards to opposing tight ends. The Eagles already have given up 5 TD passes to tight ends this season. That equals the most they’ve allowed to tight ends in a season under Schwartz (2017).

  4. Eight of the Eagles' league-best 17 sacks have come in the fourth quarter or overtime.

  5. Eighteen of Jake Elliott’s kickoffs this season have resulted in touchbacks.

  6. Punter Cam Johnston is third in the league in both gross (51.6) and net (45.9) average. He’s put an NFL-high 10 of his 19 punts inside the 20 yard-line. Nine of his punts have been 53 yards or longer.

  7. Wentz has just one red-zone touchdown pass in the first 4 games. In the first 4 games last year, he had 5.

  8. The Eagles have scored just once on their first possession. That was a touchdown against the Rams in Week 2. Their opponents also have scored just once on their first possession (also the Rams).