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Third Downs Haunt Defense

PITTSBURGH -- Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins pulled down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for a 7-yard sack on third down and it looked like the Eagles defense was going to get off the field on the game's opening drive.

That is, until the laundry started to fly.

Jenkins pulled down Roethlisberger's facemask and the drive was kept alive. Roethlisberger made the Eagles pay by capping off a 14-play, 80-yard drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown. In all, the Steelers were successful on 9-of-12 third down conversions and dominated the time of possession with control of the ball for 23:03 in the first half to carve out a 21-0 lead.

The Steelers used a physical, run-oriented approach to gain 93 yards on 22 carries (4.2 yards per carry) and more importantly kept the Eagles potent offense sidelined. Rashard Mendenhall led the way on the ground with 28 yards on six carries, but Isaac Redman was just as productive with 26 yards on eight carries. Highlighting the effectiveness of the Steelers' run game, free safety Kurt Coleman had 11 first-half tackles for the Eagles.

On the opening drive, the Steelers were forced into a third-and-1, third-and-20, third-and-8 and third-and-7 but the Eagles couldn't get off the field. When the Steelers weren't having success on the ground, the Eagles defense was frustrated by the improv skills of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers' second touchdown came as Roethlisberger rolled to his right to evade the rush and found wide receiver Hines Ward in the back of the end zone from 20 yards out.

Roethlisberger finished the night 8-of-12 for 125 yards with the two touchdown passes for a 140.6 QB rating. However, Roethlisberger's backup, Byron Leftwich, enjoyed success completing 4-of-7 passes for 67 yards with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery with just 12 seconds left in the first half.

The Eagles can take solace that its two starting defensive tackles - Antonio Dixon and Mike Patterson - were out due to injury. Jenkins and Anthony Hargrove started inside with Jason Babin and Trent Cole at the end spots. Derek Landri, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Ced Thornton and Darryl Tapp all rotated in with the first-team defensive line. The team also continued to work on the myriad of looks in the secondary with Nnamdi Asomugha starting on the right side, but also lining up in the slot. In the dime formation, Joselio Hanson was the fourth cornerback and Jamar Chaney the lone linebacker.

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