Despite loss, Steelers have good news
After two big wins to start the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers could not get anything going against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Quarterback Carson Wentz tossed two touchdowns in the Eagles’ victory to improve to 3-0 as a rookie starter. The three consecutive wins to start a season are the most in Eagles’ history when under a new head coach; Doug Pederson.
The Steelers were crippled by injuries and the blitz on Sunday. Pittsburgh lost linebackers Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier, and Lawrence Timmons, wide receiver Eli Rogers, and offensive lineman Ramon Foster to injuries during the game. Jones and Timmons both would later return.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger faced constant pressure when dropping back to pass. The Eagles sacked Roethlisberger five times and forced him to throw an interception. Roethlisberger failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season.
After consecutive 100+ yardage rushing games, running back DeAngelo Williams was not able to continue the trend this Sunday. Williams mustered only 21 yards on eight carries. As a whole, Pittsburgh rushed for 29 yards as opposed to 125 by Philadelphia.
Eagles’ running backs Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles were thorns in the Steelers’ side all game long. Smallwood led the Eagles with 79 yards rushing and a touchdown. Sproles took two carries for -1 yards, but caught six balls for 128 yards and a score.
For the Steelers, the long bright spot of the game was wide receiver Antonio Brown. A week after managing only 39 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals at a rain-soaked Heinz Field, Brown caught 12 passes for 140 yards but did not reach the end zone.
With the loss, Pittsburgh is 2-1 and returns to Heinz Field next weekend for a matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. Roethlisberger will be tested even more since the Chiefs’ defense intercepted six passes in a 24-3 win over the New York Jets.
Roethlisberger will have a new weapon in his arsenal for the game. Running back Le’Veon Bell returns after serving a three-game suspension for multiple failed drug tests. In only six games last season due to suspension and injury, Bell rushed for 556 yards and three touchdowns.
With Bell back, the Steelers will have two threats at running back and a combined 1,721 yards since the start of the 2015 season. While Williams will play less of a role with Bell’s fresh legs back in the lineup, he’ll still be a crucial part of the NFL’s best 1-2 punch at running back.
How will head coach Mike Tomlin use both effectively?
Bell should get the bulk of the carries because he is the more-talented of the two and deserves it after a disappointing performance by Williams.
However, Williams doesn't deserve to be punished for staying on the field and avoiding trouble like Bell. That said, he is 33 and Bell is 24.
Bell is the guy, but Williams should still be involved regularly. If Bell gets a big carry of 20 or more yards, there's no reason not to sub Williams in for him to give Bell a quick breather and vice versa.
If Bell gets 20 carries a game, Williams should get at least 10 himself. This way, Pittsburgh takes advantage of the strongest element of its offense.
With wide receiver Martavis Bryant suspended for the entire season, it's up to the running backs to carry the offense. Assuming both stay healthy, Bell and Williams could form the best dynamic duo since Ronald Reagan and George Bush in 1984.