Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Nnamdi targeted often and more observations from the Eagles-Steelers

PITTSBURGH -- Here are some early observations and ruminations from Eagles-Steelers game:

Nnamdi targeted often and more observations from the Eagles-Steelers

Nnamdi Asomugha and Mychal Kendricks try to tackle Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Nnamdi Asomugha and Mychal Kendricks try to tackle Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

PITTSBURGH -- Here are some early observations and ruminations from Eagles-Steelers game:

Targeting Asomugha

With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie blanketing Mike Wallace for most of the first half, Ben Roethlisberger continued to look and throw at Nnamdi Asomugha.

The Eagles cornerback has increasingly been targeted by opposing quarterbacks this season. Roethlisberger hit receiver Antonio Brown for a couple of medium-length pass completions and then found the receiver in the end zone after he beat Asomugha.

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Brown, though, couldn't hold onto the ball, and Asomugha dodged a bullet. In the second half, he was again on Brown when Roethlisberger hit the receiver for six yards on third down and six.

More Havili

Stanley Havili's growing role in the Eagles' offense was on display on Sunday.

The Eagles continue to use the fullback in multiple packages and not just as a lead blocker. He lined up as an outside receiver, as an extra tight end and was used in the running game and the passing game.

The Eagles rave about his versatility, and his blocking was late developing. Havili is turning into a complete fullback.


Inconsistent punting

When the Eagles signed Mat McBriar two weeks ago, special teams coordinator Bobby April said he wanted consistency. It has not come yet.

McBriar, a two-time Pro Bowler, might be a better long-term answer than Chas Henry this season, but there haven't been immediate benefits. His 56-yard punt went into the end zone for a touchback, and he missed on a 39-yard punt that could have pinned the Steelers deep into their territory.

He had four punts Sunday for an average of 44 yards.


In and then back out

The Steelers got healthy during the bye and welcomed safety Troy Polomalu, linebacker James Harrison and running back Rashard Mendenhall back into the fold for Sunday's game.

But Polomalu re-injured his calf in the first half and did not return. The Steelers also lost linebacker LaMarr Woodley, their best pass rusher in their first three games, to a hamstring injury. The Eagles did little to capitalize on their absence in the first half.


Work in progress

Rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks deserves the praise he's earned this season, but he whiffed on two one-on-one tackling possibilities in Sunday's first half.

The first was a Roethlisberger run when Roethlisberger faked a pitch that Kendricks bit on. It was a human reaction, but it looked like Kendricks thought the option was actually an option, and he missed a difficult shoestring tackle on Mendenhall's 13-yard touchdown.

Best for last

Tight end Brent Celek caught a clutch 2-yard touchdown pass to put the Eagles ahead in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the game, however, with their offensive line battered and facing a blitz-happy Steelers defense, the Eagles had to keep Celek in to block.

Celek provided a lot of help for left tackle Demetress Bell against Harrison. But with Celek staying in, Michael Vick didn't have his second-leading receiver as an option. The tight end had only one pass thrown in his direction in the first half - a throw away - and didn't record a catch until the third quarter. Celek finished his day with three catches for nine yards.

Not enough pressure?

The Eagles defensive line had only five sacks in the first four games this season.

The reasons, we were told, were because quarterbacks were getting rid of the ball quicker and opposing offenses were helping their lines by chip blocking. There was certainly some of that again on Sunday, but the Birds' front four was not generating enough pressure for most of the first half.

Brandon Graham, who has played well enough to warrant more snaps, was the only defensive lineman that was consistently getting in Roethlisberger's face.

Trent Cole and Jason Babin were almost non-existent in the first 30 minutes, especially late in the second quarter as the Steelers scored 10 points on their final two drives.

In the end, the Eagles did not sack Roethlisberger at all.

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Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
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