The first-team defense dominated early but penalties and late offensive struggles cost the Eagles in a 31-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first game of the 2018 preseason on Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Quarterback Nate Sudfeld played the first half and finished 10-of-14 passing with 140 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Tight end Dallas Goedert had an impressive first preseason game with four receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown while running back Corey Clement led the way rushing with 30 yards on five carries.
The game began with domination by the first-team defense as the Eagles forced a three-and-out on the Steelers’ first drive highlighted by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox’s 9-yard sack. After a Sudfeld interception set the Steelers up at the Eagles’ 39-yard line, a 9-yard sack split between linebacker Nigel Bradham and safety Malcolm Jenkins forced the Steelers back into another three-and-out and a punt.
The Eagles were forced to punt on their next possession despite a 22-yard run by Clement and 26-yard reception by Goedert that brought the Eagles from their own 2-yard line to midfield.
With the second-team defense in for the Eagles on the ensuing possession, Steelers quarterback Landry Jones took advantage of free play from an Elijah Qualls offsides penalty and found wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 71-yard touchdown with 4:02 remaining in the first. At the end of the first quarter, the Steelers led 7-0.
Starting at the Pittsburgh 46-yard line, Sudfeld began the first-team offense’s first possession of the second quarter with a 19-yard strike to Goedert. After two Sudfeld runs, Clement broke a tackle in the flat and fought for a first down on third-and-5. Two plays later, Sudfeld slipped away from a defender and found Goedert in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown.
Following a Pittsburgh illegal formation penalty on the extra point attempt, Wendell Smallwood ran in a two-point conversion to give the Eagles an 8-7 lead with 10:32 left in the second quarter.
Penalties hurt the Eagles on the next Steelers possession. A personal foul on cornerback Sidney Jones - the helmet rule - extended the drive after a third-down stop near midfield. Then, after the Steelers threw an incomplete pass on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line, a roughing the passer call on defensive end Josh Sweat gave Pittsburgh another first down.
Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint punched in a 1-yard touchdown on the next play. An ensuing two-point conversion run by Toussaint made the score 15-8 Pittsburgh with 4:18 left in the half.
The Eagles took the ball back and Sudfeld threw his second interception of the game, returned by Pittsburgh to the Eagles’ 35-yard line. But on the very next play, Douglas undercut a pass from Joshua Dobbs to wide receiver Damoun Patterson and gave the Eagles the ball right back.
Sudfeld took advantage immediately, throwing a perfect pass to streaking wide receiver Shelton Gibson for a 63-yard touchdown. Another two-point conversion attempt failed, making the score 15-14 Steelers with 1:58 remaining in the second.
The Steelers weren’t finished yet as Dobbs led a 75-yard drive in 1:40 and found Patterson in the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown. The Steelers took a 22-14 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
Joe Callahan took the field to start the second half and had a tough beginning, fumbling at the Eagles’ 16-yard line. The Eagles’ defense held the Steelers to a field goal, making it 25-14 with 11:59 left in the third quarter.
The two teams traded three-and-out possessions before the Steelers added three more points later in the quarter. A 35-yard pass to wide receiver James Washington set up a 41-yard kick by Chris Boswell to make it 28-14 Pittsburgh with 1:07 left.
A Steelers drive that took 5:39 off the clock ended with a 38-yard Boswell field goal that extended Pittsburgh’s lead to 31-14 with 8:54 left in the fourth quarter.
After five drives that lasted six plays or fewer, Callahan led the Eagles 64 yards in 13 plays before the drive stalled with a turnover on downs at the Pittsburgh 13-yard line. With 1:39 remaining, the Steelers ran out the clock to secure the victory.
The Eagles will be back in action next Thursday on the road against the New England Patriots in a rematch of Super Bowl LII.
Check out the best photos from Thursday's preseason opener against the Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field.