Why the Eagles Could Struggle to Protect Carson Wentz vs. Steelers


Alex Goodlett/Getty Images Quarterback Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles looks to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a 2016 game in Philadelphia.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have recorded the second-most sacks in the NFL (15). The Steelers have also generated the highest percentage of quarterback pressures in the league this season at 46.5%. Meanwhile, the offensive line of the Philadelphia Eagles has been depleted by injury, to the point where one Pittsburgh beat reporter (Dale Lolley) has postulated that that Steelers might equal or exceed the team’s single-game sack record (10), which has been achieved on four different occasions.

To be sure, it’s unlikely that the Steelers will sniff that record this week, as the Eagles have patched together a serviceable unit. (If the Steelers do record, say, 10 sacks, that would put them on pace for a 100-sack season!) But it is likely that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz—and rookie QB Jalen Hurts, who may also get snaps when the Eagles visit Heinz Field on Sunday—will be under a considerable amount of pressure.

Injuries Have Decimated Philadelphia’s O-Line

The injury bug started to bite the Eagles O-line in the spring, when Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks suffered a torn Achilles. Next, second-year left tackle Andre Dillard suffered a torn biceps during training camp. Then left guard Isaac Seumalo went down with a knee injury in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Rams. (Seumalo is on injured reserve and will miss the Steelers game). Most recently, 17-year-veteran Jason Peters—who was signed to replace Brooks and then moved to left tackle to replace Dillard—went on the reserve list with an injury of his own.

Meanwhile, right tackle Lane Johnson missed the first game of the season due to surgery on his right ankle, and he’s still not healthy; he was in and out of Philadelphia’s Sunday night game against the San Francisco 49ers, which turned out to be Philly’s first victory of the season.

So while the line will still be anchored by 10-year center Jason Kelce, expect the Steelers to bring pressure from all positions—including cornerback and safety—to try to make things extra challenging for the young replacement linemen, who figure to include former undrafted free agent Nate Herbig (left guard, Stanford) and rookie right tackle Jack Driscoll (Auburn). Then there’s former seventh-round pick and former Australian rugby star turned left tackle Jordan Mailata, who made his first NFL start against the 49ers and will no doubt be tested by Pittsburgh’s edge rushers.

Pittsburgh’s Pass Rushing Leaders

The Steelers have nine different players with at least half a sack this season. T.J. Watt leads the parade with 3.5 sacks while fellow outside linebacker Bud Dupree has two, as does inside linebacker Vince Williams, defensive end Stephon Tuitt and cornerback Mike Hilton.

The Steelers defense is working toward setting a new franchise record for sacks, trying to accomplish something no NFL team has accomplished since the 1980s.

For what it’s worth, Carson Wentz was sacked three times last Sunday by the 49ers.

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