The Steelers look for back-to-back wins against the Falcons, and here are four questions the team must answer.
The Steelers got their fourth win of the season against the Colts, and now they look to get to five as they face a very beatable Falcons team. While Atlanta has been a better team than most expected them to be, they are still in the bottom half of the NFL. That said, there are some obvious weapons that this team has to focus on beating.
The Falcons aren’t ready to roll over this season either. Despite a poor record, they are still second in the NFC South and thus, are in the playoff hunt. Every win is key for them, and they will be a stiff team to beat because of that. The Steelers must answer these four key questions in their week 12 matchup.
Can Diontae Johnson show up?
It hasn’t been a season to remember for Diontae Johnson, as the top receiver has struggled to make an impact. Known for his quick routes, ability to get open, and his play after the catch, Johnson has missed the mark on most of those strengths this season. Add in his poor choices after the catch and it has been a frustrating year.
He has the chance to finally find some footing this week. The Falcons boast a bad defense, and while he will likely face off against top cornerback AJ Terrell, he hasn’t had as great of a season as he has had in the past. Johnson needs to get on the same page in this passing game and become an impact player again.
Can Kenny Pickett stack good games?
Kenny Pickett played his best and most complete game of the season against the Colts. While his individual stats weren’t anything special, he looked more composed in the pocket and had some sharp passes. He still isn’t playing great, but he has developed from his early season struggles. What he needs to do now is stack some solid games.
As stated before, the Falcons defense is a mess, so Pickett has a good chance of doing just that this week. The offense still shouldn’t move through him, but perhaps they can lean on him a little more. As well, he could use a passing touchdown or two and some big hits down the field. No, he doesn’t need to be the entire offense, but Pickett needs to start stacking solid performances.
What will the Steelers do to stop Cordarrelle Patterson?
As a fan, you have to give some props to Cordarrelle Patterson. Drafted as a receiver, he never was consistent enough to be a great starter there. He bounced around as a return man before finally making the shift to running back. His size and athleticism have made him an impact player there as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield.
While he hasn’t had a dynamic season, he faces some Steelers linebackers that have struggled to cover running backs. Patterson is the X factor in this game, as he can serve as a dynamic check-down option for the Falcons. The Steelers off-ball linebackers need to be ready to cover Patterson and limit his effectiveness out of the backfield.
Can the Steelers running game take over?
The Steelers running game has shown some much-needed improvements since the bye week. Najee Harris has played more north to south and the backups have all had a chance to shine. The line as a whole should be credited here for this, as they have been opening up a lot of lanes against opposing defenses.
The Falcons have one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL, and Pittsburgh needs to take advantage of this with their new-look run game. No matter who is back there (there is no definite status on Harris as of this writing), the run game needs to be the focus. More importantly, the run game needs to continue to churn out yards.
The Steelers have a good shot at winning two games in a row for the first time this season against the Falcons. That said, if they want a shot at pulling this off, these questions will have to be answered by the team once their Sunday matchup gets underway.