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Roethlisberger struggles in Steelers' tune-up; Eagles' Foles not much better

Eric Edholm
Shutdown Corner

It's understandable if you're reading this Friday morning, having seen Nick Foles' stat line from Thursday's preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and want to throw your shoe at me (or your laptop, with me in mind).

It's true: Foles completed 19-of-29 passes for 179 yards, and did so in a half's worth of work. So a nearly 400-yard-game pace is not impressive? That's what I am saying.

Luckily, I don't need to persuade you to look beyond the numbers to tell you how bad his counterpart, Ben Roethlisberger, was for the Steelers. His horrid first-half numbers — 10-for-19 passing, 82 yards and an interception — back that up pretty well.

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If this were the final tuneup for both teams heading into the regular season, there's enough concern about both quarterbacks to wonder if they are at the top of their games right now.

The Steelers crossed midfield on their first drive of the night against a Philadelphia Eagles defense that had looked sub-par in their first two preseason games, but they could go no farther when Roethlisberger missed two easy throws.

The second series, the Steelers looked like they badly wanted to get some chemistry between Roethlisberger and second-year receiver Markus Wheaton, who missed all of last season but could be a big part of the offense. Roethlisberger missed him once (but was bailed out by a ticky-tack penalty call) and then missed two more times on the drive. Another punt.

It was much the same for the rest of the first half as Roethlisberger and his receivers all appeared to be going off different playbooks. It's hard to know who was to blame, but it wasn't all the wideouts; Big Ben struggled for certain on Thursday. His timing and touch were off, often throwing behind his receivers, and he looked annoyed at the whole affair more than anything. Roethlisberger was picked once and almost victimized again mid-second quarter by Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. There was very little encouraging to take away from Roethlisberger in the first half.

He finished a still-poor 15-of-24 passing for 157 yards despite playing almost three quarters and padding his stats with a 5-for-5 drive for 75 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles' second-team defense.

Foles was cold early, misfiring on several throws before LeSean McCoy did what he does — make something out of a nothing pass — and scored from 22 yards out on a screen.

That made Foles' numbers look better; he was 4-for-10 passing for 45 yards before that. Several of Foles' pass catchers — such as a fire-up Brent Celek — also helped out early in the game.

Foles found his way on a 6-for-6 drive that easily was his best series of the night. He found a rhythm, threw crisply and operated with confidence. Foles threw for 55 yards on the drive and was aided by a few penalties, and he carried some of that rhythm into his next drive with a nice gain to Zach Ertz, but Foles made a bad decision and throw on a pick by Troy Polamalu.

Overall, it capped the majority of work he'll get from what has been a very so-so preseason. It's unlikely he'll match last season's incredible 27-2 TD-INT ratio — he had that many picks against the Chicago Bears in the second preseason game — and left many wondering how much Chip Kelly's scheme and the Eagles' great yards-after-catch players were the real reason for his success.

Both quarterbacks are entering fascinating seasons.

Roethlisberger is a free-agent-to-be after the 2015 season, and he has addressed his contract situation with a mixture of indifference and humor recently. He has mostly said and done the right things when asked about it, knowing there's a good chance the Steelers will let him walk after next season. GM Kevin Colbert said he's confident Big Ben will retire a Steeler. But what happens if he struggles this season? Does that delay an extension by a season, with the Steelers suddenly wanting him to sign more of a prove-it type contract? Ben might not be too thrilled about that prospect.

Foles, meanwhile, already is feeling the first mild signs of pressure from backup Mark Sanchez, who has thrown the ball very confidently for the most part, save for a few mistakes and despite them coming mostly against lesser defenders. But that doesn't mean there isn't a chance Kelly could make a switch if Foles takes a big step back. It's not likely, but you don't get the feeling that Kelly has locked himself into Foles for the long term at all.

The preseason can be misleading. Eli Manning, for instance, was horrid in the 2011 exhibition season before going on to win a Super Bowl six months later. But what we've seen in August so far from Foles and Roethlisberger hasn't been all that encouraging.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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