PITTSBURGH -- I'm never one to make much of the preseason, especially with rosters being shuffled and key players being out ... But this was an old-school beatdown. I don't care if the game was being played in August or January. The Eagles got hammered by the Steelers in every aspect. It was ugly and the Eagles' staff is going to have to dissect this corpse and see what it can bring to life for the third preseason game, which is usually the dress rehearsal for the regular season.
Here's what I took away from the game:
The Steelers got the memo. Coach Mike Tomlin was steamed after they got out-muscled by the Washington Redskins in the preseason opener, and the Steelers came to play on both sides of the ball Thursday night. They beat up the Eagles at the line of scrimmage and created an array of big plays. It seemed to me that the Steelers schemed up pretty good on defense and took more of a regular-season approach. The power-run game was a point of emphasis and they gouged Philadelphia's first string for 93 rushing yards in the first half, while throwing for 192 and three touchdowns. Michael Vick never got comfortable, throwing five completions to three interceptions in a half of work and the Eagles' biggest offensive play went for 16 yards. Pittsburgh posted consecutive 14-play, 7:30-plus touchdown drives to open the game and outgained the Eagles 262-71 in the first half. Yeah, I'd call that a statement.
Big Ben is better than ever. I'm buying the new-married-changed Ben Roethlisberger. He's going to do damage over a full 16-game season, with the suspension now a year behind him. He was at his street-balling best tonight -- buying time, moving in the pocket to throw two touchdown strikes on the run. On the first drive, he was a killer on third down, converting a third and one for an 11-yard completion, third and eight for an 18-yard pass and third and seven for a 29-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown. He carved up the Eagles' vaunted secondary and made it look easy. He looks in great shape, and if his practice habits are indeed now top notch, Roethlisberger could be making a lot of fantasy owners happy this season.
Unsettled secondary. The Eagles are supposed to have the best group of corners around and they just well might, but not tonight. Brown took turns running past Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel on consecutive plays. Byron Leftwich slung it around on the first-team corners as well. Asomugha did his usual thing, staying exclusively on the right side of the field, but also took a few plays as a safety, in a single-high role at least once, and was playing some zone as well as straight-up man. Samuel was starting on the other side and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was more of a nickel guy. Asomugha was in the slot and on the outside, but was anything but in a matchup role with Mike Wallace.
Matthews in the middle? Casey Matthews has the bloodlines, but does he have the ability right now to be the Mike linebacker and central nervous system for a defense with Super Bowl aspirations? I know top run stuffer Mike Patterson wasn't playing for the Eagles and it's just the preseason, but defensive line coach Jim Washburn plays a style in which his linemen often play the run on the way to the quarterback and get upfield a lot. The linebackers have to be tackling machines and the group of middle linebackers on the Eagles depth chart Thursday night were all rookies. It could be an area to watch, particularly against physical units like the Steelers, who were running the ball down the Eagles' throat at times.
Hotel Flozell back to the 'Burgh? The one negative for the Steelers was an oft-maligned unit -- the offensive line. Already somewhat wounded, the Steelers lost their top two left tackles within the first two drives, with Jonathan Scott and Marcus Gilbert both leaving and not returning. We'll see how long they are out, if at all, but at some point the Steelers might have to look at bringing back Flozell Adams, perhaps, or maybe Bryant McKinnie, if the left-tackle spot is vulnerable. Protecting Roethlisberger, as long as he holds the ball, is not easy. Re-signing right tackle Willie Colon was huge, but this unit will remain under the microscope and could become a cause for concern later.
Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @jasonlacanfora.