Eagles vs. Steelers: What Philadelphia Must Do to Beat in-State Rival

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Running back LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on September 30, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

If the Philadelphia Eagles want to continue their impressive start to the 2012 season, they'll have to find a way to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road.

The Eagles sit at 3-1 through four weeks, boasting the best record in the NFC East. Despite the hot start, there are still some areas that Philadelphia will need to improve if it hopes to prove itself as a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the NFC.

The Steelers will provide a stern test for the Eagles legitimacy.

Pittsburgh is off to an uncharacteristically rough start as injuries at key positions have led to a 1-2 start. However, with a bye week to get healthy and make the appropriate adjustments, the Eagles can expect to see a very prepared Steelers team on Sunday.

Here's what the Eagles will have to do to win the battle of Pennsylvania.


Start Early

It's tough to make too many assumptions from just one loss, but a huge reason that the Eagles lost to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3 was that they fell behind early.

The Cardinals jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and expanded that lead to 24-0 by half time. Philly was able to adjust in the second half to hold Arizona to just three points, but at that point the damage was done.

The Steelers are a team on the brink.

At 1-2, this really is a do or die game for them at home. If the Eagles are able to apply pressure early on by playing good defense and putting some points on the board, they could see the Steelers implode.

Allow Pittsburgh in the game early and this game will be competitive throughout.


Give LeSean McCoy the Ball

This really isn't that complicated.

LeSean McCoy is among the most electric players in the game today. When the ball is in his hands, the Eagles consistently gain yards and have big-play potential. When they don't feed him the ball, they willingly hinder the offense.

Andy Reid loves the passing game.

The Eagles are among the most pass-heavy teams in the league, but there's no denying that this offense is much more effective when McCoy gets his touches.

In each o the Eagles' three wins, McCoy carried the ball over 20 times and racked up at least 80 yards on the ground.  In the Eagles lone loss McCoy only saw 13 carries and hit the 70 yard mark.

Facing a Steelers defense that is giving up over 100 yards per game on the ground, Philadelphia needs to utilize a heavy dose of McCoy, both early and often.


Minimize Turnovers

Turnovers have become the biggest story surrounding the Eagles in this young season.

Philadelphia leads the league in giveaways with 12, including six interceptions and six lost fumbles. The fact that the Eagles are 3-1, despite a horrible -5 turnover differential is truly perplexing.

Looking forward, it's seems nearly impossible that they can continue to win at their current rate, while turning the ball over so much.

If the offense is going to clean things up and get turnovers under control, the Steelers are the perfect team to face—Pittsburgh is near the bottom of the league in takeaways with only three on the season.

If the Eagles are able to win the turnover battle, this explosive offense can show just how dangerous it can be when it's clicking. That could be bad news for the NFC, and to a more immediate extent, the Pittsburgh Steelers.