By Lewis Gould
Last night was Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld’s coming out party.
Even though Joe Callahan started the second half.
Sudfeld proactively had rookie tight end Dallas Goedert shift his alignment before the first play. Then he handed the ball to Jay Ajayi, who netted four yards, the running back using second and third effort behind a motivated offensive line.
Second down was a problem. Sudfeld sailed the ball over the head of the 6-4 Mack Hollins, which is tough to do. And on third down Sudfeld was intercepted by cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, who jumped the route. Might want to try a head fake before locking in on the receiver.
The interception gave the Steelers a first down at the 39-yard line of the Eagles, who forced a punt, thanks to Malcolm Jenkins’ sack.
Of course, these weren’t the real Steelers, either. Jenkins put quarterback Landry Jones on his back, not Ben Roethlisberger. Antonio Brown didn’t play. LeVeon Bell hasn’t signed his franchise tender.
All of that’s par for the course in the preseason.
The second possession went better for Sudfeld, and to his credit, he stuck with it. Starting at his two-yard line, he avoided the dreaded sack-safety by handing the ball to Ajayi, who thundered 26 yards.
Sudfeld had a decent drive going until Goedert, hearing footsteps perhaps, dropped an easy throw over the middle on first down. Back-to-back handoffs netted 12 yards. Finally, the Steelers caught on. They stopped the run game and forced Sudfeld to try to beat him with his arm talent. And Sudfeld gave it a pretty good shot.
Sudfeld connected with Goedert for a 19-yard completion. Later, Sudfeld did his impression of Foles operation a run-pass option play.
Sudfeld avoided the rush by Tyler Matekevich, the Temple lad, cut upfield as if to run, and with the defense frozen in time, rifled a bullet to Goedert for a 15-yard touchdown.
Wendell Smallwood bulled over from the one-yard line for two points, the Steelers penalized for an illegal formation. That gave the Eagles an 8-7 lead with 10:26 to go before the halftime announcements.
At that point Goedert caught three passes for 60 yards from Sudfeld. The other three completions netted minus-two yards.
Sudfeld wasn’t done although he threw another interception late in the first half, Bryce Treggs going one way, the throw another. Teammate Rasul Douglas, who was beaten for a 71-yard scoring pass, bailed the Eagles out with an interception of Joshua Dobbs.
Instead of being timid, Sudfeld balled-out. On second-and-four, he moved to his left out of the shotgun and spiraled a 63-yard scoring bomb the other way to Shelton Gibson.
It pulled the Eagles within 15-14, as Smallwood couldn’t finish on another two-point attempt from the one-yard line, the Steelers again covering up the center for an illegal formation penalty.
All in all, Sudfeld completed 10 of 14 attempts for 140 yards and a 103.3 passer rating in his half of work.