Jordan Mailata’s Job Will Get Tougher

By Rob Maaddi

Jordan Mailata went from rugby star to NFL starter in three years. Now his job will be more difficult.
The mammoth 6-foot-8, 346-mound Aussie played well in his first career start last Sunday night in San Francisco. He didn’t allow any sacks, though he committed a false start on a third-and-1 that stalled a drive in the second quarter.
Mailata didn’t have to face Nick Bosa or Solomon Thomas, who are out for the season with knee injuries. Still, it was an impressive performance for a guy playing a meaningful football game from start to finish for the first time in his life. When the Eagles visit the Steelers on Sunday, Mailata will have his hands full trying to block Bud Dupree and a relentless pass rush.
“Really going up against a good edge rusher this week so have to be pay patient with my hands, get off the ball,” Mailata said.
Dupree has 2 1/2 sacks and one forced fumble. The Steelers have 15 sacks in three games. They also now have a full game’s worth of film on Mailata so they’ll know his tendencies and will try to attack his weaknesses. Protecting Carson Wentz’s blind side is obviously critical to Philly’s success. How Mailata holds up against Dupree will be a major factor in determining if the Eagles can pull off another upset on the road.

Here are three more matchups to watch:

1. Miles Sanders vs. Duce Staley/Doug Pederson

With the game on the line at San Francisco, the Eagles turned to Corey Clement and Boston Scott to try to get a first down and run out the clock. They couldn’t. The offense had to punt, the Niners drown down the field and nearly won the game on a desperation pass into the end zone.
Sanders apparently wasn’t injured and Pederson didn’t use the “fatigued” excuse this time. He actually said Sanders was on the sideline by design.
“Don’t read into anything,” Pederson said. “Corey, we have situational football, as you know, right, first, second, third down, we have four-minute football, two-minute football, backed up football, red zone, goal line, there’s all kind of stuff.”
Huh? That can’t be the reason. If Sanders wasn’t tired or hurt, are the Eagles concerned about him fumbling? Who made the call? Staley or Pederson?
“You guys asked me to play our backs more, so I’m trying to play our backs more,” Pederson joked. “Corey was one of our backs at the end of the game in the four-minute offense, a little bit bigger back and he’s capable of running between the tackles that way. He’s powerful. He’s big, so by design, by game plan design, he was in on those specific plays at the end of the game.”
Sanders is by far the team’s best back and he must be on the field for the most important moments of games.

2. Eagles DBs vs. Steelers WRs

Darius Slay, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Cre’Von LeBlanc and Jalen Mills, if he plays cornerback this week, are facing a talented group of receivers and a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger who like to use his big arm. JuJu Smith-Schuster has 17 catches for 160 yards and three TDs. Diontae Johnson has 14 catches for 149 yards and one TD. James Washington has 10 catches for 92 yards and one TD. Washington had 13 plays of 20-plus yards in 2019.

3. Eagles Run Defense vs. Steelers Running Backs

James Connor has 224 yards rushing and an average of 5.6 per carry with two TDs. Barry Snell has 129 yards on the ground and an average of 4.4 per carry. The Eagles have mostly played well against the run except for Week 2 against the Rams. They held San Francisco’s backs to 60 yards on 17 carries but gave up 56 yards on three runs by wide receivers and tight ends.