Steelers vs. Falcons: Keys to Victory
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in position to win out and win the AFC North division for the first time since 2010. To do that, however, they’ll have to beat a team from a division where everyone has a losing record and the Steelers have so far gone 1-2 against. The Steelers are facing a 5-8 Atlanta Falcons team in a game that has actual playoff implications. The 5-8 Falcons currently lead the NFC South, and are looking to do the very same thing the Steelers hope to do; win out and win their division. How do the Steelers avoid dropping a third game to a NFC South team, where the rest of their division rivals went a 10-0-1 collectively against and keep their own playoff hopes alive?
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Don’t beat themselves
Turnovers and slow starts played a huge role in the Steelers’ losses to the “inferior” teams this season. Whether it was the uber conservative game-plan in place for the Jets game right as the Steelers were in the midst of an unbelievably hot offensive streak or the turnovers in the Saints game, the Steelers have stood in their own way more than a few times this season. They can’t afford to keep doing that. If the Steelers want to reverse the trend of losing to these NFC South teams this year they’re going to have to play smart and protect the damn football. Don’t put the piggy on the ground or in the other team’s hands.
Pressure from front seven
There’s no chance of the Steelers secondary magically becoming a unit that can shut down wide receivers and tight ends (other than Jimmy Graham apparently) and not give up huge plays overnight, or in the course of a week for that matter. Ike Taylor probably won’t see the field on Sunday but that doesn’t mean the defense lies squarely on the secondary’s shoulders. If the front seven can get constant and adequate pressure on Matt Ryan, the secondary might not get exposed so much. It’s way easier said than done, but that’s the best chance this defense has at this point. The defensive line has actually improved in stopping the run and sacks are down overall in the league this season, but if they give Ryan time in the pocket they’re going to pay for it.
They’re better than the Falcons, they need to remember that
We’d all like a straight answer to the question of why the Steelers lose to bad teams. But the harsh reality is that there is no clear cut answer, there is no valid explanation that can describe why a team can put together the performances they did against teams like the Colts, Ravens, and Bengals are the same group that can stink up the joint against the Jets, Bucs, and Saints. You can debate different theories and angles till you’re blue in the face but for the old “they play down to opponents” argument, you’d have to really believe that your team is taking the field and essentially not giving a crap. That’s a hard pill for a reasonable-minded person such as myself to swallow. However, the record is what it is and there’s no denying that. You can argue that the 5-8 Falcons are still a playoff contender and division leader but the fact is that at this point in the season, if you’ve already lost eight games, you’re most likely a bad team. The Steelers are the better team here, no matter what the records say or the divisional races at stake. They need to exercise their demons of losing to bad teams right here, right now.
Here we go Steelers! Here we go!