With 5:48 remaining in the third quarter, rookie running back Wendell Smallwood gained the most significant yard in his career. Smallwood recorded his first NFL touchdown out of the shotgun on a one-yard run during the 34-3 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It felt real good. It has been a long time coming," Smallwood said. "It felt good to get into the end zone and get my first touchdown, since I don't know how long; since probably December."
Smallwood, a fifth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft from West Virginia, had recorded just 17 yards on three carries between the first two games. However, Sunday's game was a different story. Smallwood had 17 carries for a total of 79 yards, including six first-down conversions. Smallwood is now the second leading rusher for the Eagles on the season, with a total of 96 yards and one touchdown.
Smallwood was part of a very effective running back rotation on Sunday, which alternated between Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner. With Mathews seeing limited time due to ankle stiffness, that left the slot open for the remaining three, all of whom scored.
During Smallwood's scoring drive, the Eagles put a pause on the rotation, sticking with Smallwood for nearly every play, which came as a surprise to the running back.
"I really thought they were going to send someone in because I couldn't get in, but they left me in and kept showing the confidence they have in me and how much they believe in me," Smallwood said. "It just boosts my confidence and makes me want to go hard for them.
"It just felt good to finally start getting into a flow, start getting comfortable with the game and not be out there like a reindeer – a deer out there in the headlights – but it felt good to start getting into a roll and getting comfortable with the offense."
Although the Eagles are just getting the ball rolling, they are headed into an early season bye week, something that Smallwood thinks will help the Eagles get some rest heading into the rest of their schedule.
"It feels great and we just got that full head of steam," Smallwood said. "I think we are going to keep rolling. We are not going to sit back and get comfortable at all. We are going to keep it going and keep rolling."
Smallwood's strong performance not only impressed the fans at Lincoln Financial Field, but it also drew praise from his head coach.
"He's the same type of runner that we felt he was coming out of college and what we saw in preseason," said Coach Pederson. "He's a big, powerful guy. He's a downhill guy. He's a one-cut runner. He did a great job for us.
"To get first downs, to be smart about the end of the game, (and) to get the first down and stay in bounds as a rookie is tremendous."
The Sunday afternoon matchup was the biggest test for the Eagles to this point this season. Defeating possible Super Bowl contenders, such as the Steelers, is seen as dream-like for players like Smallwood.
"It just felt great and especially in a big game, as big as this game meant to us, and what we went into this week preparing for, just to get into the end zone and get the guys going, it felt like a dream come true out there."