What we learned from Steelers too-close-for-comfort win vs Falcons
The Pittsburgh Steelers survived a close game versus the Atlanta Falcons to earn our fifth victory of the season. Here’s what we learned.
Coming off a Monday night road victory and working on a short week, the Steelers outlasted the Atlanta Falcons to earn a much-need and consecutive road victory. Taking a ten-point lead into halftime was encouraging but the second half proved to be challenging for us.
I think the terms ‘survived’ and ‘outlasted’ are very fitting for what we saw in the second half, but we made the necessary plays when we needed them, got a huge special teams play late in the game that pinned the Falcons deep in their own end and got an INT to seal it.
Let’s see what we learned on the offensive side of the ball.
The Steelers did just enough on offense to help secure victory but scoring TDs is still an issue
Settling for field goals rather than scoring touchdowns generally leads to a loss, but not against the Falcons. The offense ended four drives with a FG rather than ‘cashing in’ for a TD. As I said, it did not ultimately affect the outcome of the game, but it could have.
Leading the way in the passing game was Pat Freiermuth, who has emerged as a reliable and often uncoverable target for Kenny Pickett. Frankly, there is nothing like having a TE who is effective both in the run game and in the passing game. I dare say that having that combination at TE is something we have not had since Heath Miller retired.
We also got production once again in the running game with Najee Harris leading the way. According to ESPN, the aforementioned Freiermuth had seventy-six yards on only three receptions while Harris accumulated eighty-six yards on the ground on seventeen carries.
I have said this before, but I will say it again and I will keep saying it as long as it is applicable: Being a balanced offense is the best way to give yourself a chance to win a game. The Steelers offense was once again balanced and was once again a contributor to the cause.
Let’s see what we learned on the defensive side of the ball.
The Steelers defense re-enacted ‘a tale of two cities’ against the Falcons
To put it more appropriately, the Steelers defense re-enacted ‘a tale of two halves’ against the Falcons. Having held the Falcons offense to under one hundred and thirty yards and six points in the first half, one would assume that pattern would repeat itself in the second half.
That was not the case. The defense gave up just under one hundred and eighty yards and ten points in the second half. We did make plays when plays needed to be made, none more important that the game-sealing INT authored by Minkah Fitzpatrick, our All-Pro Safety.
Fitzpatrick’s ability to deliver in a big moment is reminiscent of the great safeties who preceded him. I harken back to the likes of Mike Wagner, Donnie Shell, Ryan Clark, and Troy Polamalu. Having had the privilege of watching all four of those players roam the back end of the defense, I think it’s safe to say Fitzpatrick is rapidly ascending the ladder, as it were.
Let’s see what else we learned.
The Steelers are still on the wrong end of the win spectrum but are making some noise
A few weeks ago, I honestly thought the Steelers had little to no chance of ending the 2022 season with a winning record. While we are still ‘upside down’ in the win-loss column, things are looking up. The win against the Falcons means that we now have something of a winning streak going.
Obviously, that will have meant nothing if we can’t keep it going, but at least for this game against the Falcons, I think the Steelers showed that we can still win a game despite not playing perfectly. Make no mistake, the Steelers will have to play near-perfect football down the stretch if we want to continue to ‘make some noise’.
The offense and defense complimented each other. We won the time of possession, we converted fifty percent of our third downs, we held our opponent to a thirty-percent conversion rate on third down and we got a game-winning INT. That is Steelers football. Not pretty, not flashy but doing enough to secure victory.