The Pittsburgh Steelers narrowly escaped Atlanta with a win. Here’s how things nearly fell apart for Mike Tomlin’s team in Week 13.
It’s happening. The Pittsburgh Steelers are finally starting to come alive. Since the bye week, this team has gone 3-1 and have a point differential of +13 (a far cry from the -77 point differential through the first 8 weeks).
For the first time in who knows how long, we can finally see some light at the tunnel for Mike Tomlin’s team. In their second consecutive road contest, the Steelers snuck by the Atlanta Falcons on the road for a 19-16 victory.
If we start to look deeply into their recent success, we might not be as satisfied. Pittsburgh’s wins since the bye have come against bottom-dwellers like the Saints, Colts, and now Falcons. However, this game could have been much better than the final results showed.
Steelers were sticking it to the Falcons in the first half
Believe it or not, I’ve actually been impressed with the aggressiveness from Pittsburgh in the first half of games since the bye. Over the past two weeks, quarterback Kenny Pickett has played the best football of his career in the first half against both the Colts and the Falcons.
Last week, Pickett went 14 of 18 for 133 yards in the first two quarters. This time around, the rookie boasted 145 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating over 100 and 7.6 yards per attempt, according to ESPN stats.
Aside from one big missed pass down the seam to Pat Freiermuth, the rest of his first-half performance was excellent. The willingness to let Pickett sit back and make plays translated to a 16-6 lead at halftime.
Steelers coaching nearly blows it in the second half
It’s really hard to blame the execution in the second half of the Steelers game against the Falcons as the play-calling was distinctively more conservative. Pittsburgh routinely opened up first down with a running play and lived to get the offense in 3rd and long situations.
By trying to run time off the clock and protect his quarterback, Matt Canada nearly blew this game with his appalling play-calling in the second half. For a team that was previously averaging 24.6 points per game following the bye week, mustering up just 3 second-half points against a bad team like the Atlanta Falcons is completely inexcusable.
Fortunately, the Steelers still received the desired outcome with the win, but letting off the gas over the final two quarters and playing conservative football almost doomed Pittsburgh’s 2022 season.
Mike Tomlin needs to make sure that this type of collapse doesn’t happen again under his watch. This is the type of game that we would have loved to see Pittsburgh stick it to an inferior opponent. Unfortunately, the Steelers might not be capable of blowing out even the worst teams while Matt Canada is still the offensive coordinator.