The Philadelphia Eagles took the field for the very first time in 2012 on Aug. 9. Eagles fans like myself just hoped that the regulars would put in a good effort in their cameo against the Pittsburgh Steelers - or at least a better effort than they had against the Steelers last preseason. Their poor performance in Pittsburgh last August was the first sign that the 'Dream Team' hype would come crashing down in 2011.
As such, the hope is that this year's preseason effort against the Steelers won't be another bad sign for the 2012 Eagles. Although Philadelphia rallied for a last-second 24-23 win over Pittsburgh, the reserves did all the damage while the big stars were shut down again.
12 months ago, the Steelers got a 21-0 lead in the first half over the Eagles, as Michael Vick kept throwing interceptions and the 'Dream Team' had not yet come together - and never would, really. This time around, the damage wasn't so bad as the Steelers only had a 13-0 lead at the half. However, Philadelphia didn't have much else to cheer about in the first 30 minutes.
Michael Vick went three-for-four passing the ball and had no turnovers, yet his night ended with a hand injury. Although it wasn't serious, few of us fans expect it to be the last injury scare for Vick this season. Yet we expected his legs to get taken out first, so getting hurt in new places in August can't be promising for him.
In addition to the Vick concerns, the seemingly improved and revamped Philadelphia defense couldn't get off the field early on. Ben Roethlisberger only led the Steelers on one drive, yet it lasted 16 plays and contained two third-down conversions and one fourth-down gain. The Eagles ultimately held the Steelers to just a field goal, but more often than not, those drives will likely result in touchdowns in the regular season.
Promptly after that, the Eagles went three-and-out and the Steelers did get that touchdown on a subsequent 11-play drive. Vick was only supposed to play in the first quarter, but since the offense barely took the field in those first 15 minutes, he had to return in the second and got himself hurt as a result. Then when the Eagles finally got a drive going under Mike Kafka, an interception halted that momentum and led to another three points for the Steelers.
The backups put together 24 second-half points and salvaged a victory, yet no one will remember that in Philadelphia. What we will remember is Vick's latest bruises, a stalled starting offense and a starting defense that couldn't get a rest. Will we have to see that same formula repeat itself during the regular season, or can the Eagles' regulars learn from their preseason problems with the Steelers his time?
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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