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Inside the Steelers: Steelers-Falcons Preview

Coming off a 21 point demolition of Cincinnati, the Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping to avoid another letdown against a sub .500 team, something they’ve already done in losses to Tampa Bay, New York Jets, and the New Orleans Saints. Should the Steelers take care of business on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, they will return home for the final two games of the season and will control their fate to win the AFC North title.

The devastating combination of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown is setting Steelers’ offensive records across the board. Imagine if OC Todd Haley would’ve unleashed this beast earlier in the season instead of playing it safe with short passes.

To date, Roethlisberger ranks 2nd in the NFL with 4,055 yards passing to go with 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Antonio Brown leads the NFL with 105 catches, and is second only to Julio Jones in receiving yards with 1,375. Le’Veon Bell is 2nd in rushing with 1,231 yards, to go with 71 receptions for 693 yards. If Bell goes over 200 yards from scrimmage this Sunday, he will be the 1st player in NFL history to do so in four straight games. He is tied with Walter Payton for that record currently.

Rookie WR Martavis Bryant awoke from a mid-season slumber to snare a 94-yard scoring bomb from Roethlisberger last week against the Bengals.

Tackle Marcus Gilbert is hoping to return to the line-up this week.

On defense, the Steelers will need to tighten up the leaks in the secondary. Far too often the team has been burned for long scoring strikes the past month. It’s not a great weakness to have when Julio Jones is lurking around down-field.

Speaking of Jones, he may face the dreaded “game-time decision” with injuries suffered in last week’s loss to Green Bay.

The Steelers have allowed 31 sacks on the season, however, the Falcons rarely get any pressure on opposing QB’s, as they’ve managed just 15 the entire year. Giving Big Ben extra time to throw against the league’s worst secondary could be a devastating combo against Atlanta, as they learned last week in giving up 43 points to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

Matt Ryan is having a solid season with 3,802 yards passing, 25 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. As mentioned, Julio Jones is his main target. Roddy White is 2nd on the team with 59 catches and 704 yards. Both he and Jones have grabbed six touchdowns so far. Devin Hester and Harry Douglas also see plenty of time on the field. Steven Jackson has had a better second half of the season. He leads the Falcons with 652 yards rushing and six scores.

Prediction: Last week I said watch the Steelers take care of business against Cincinnati, only to trip up in a game against Atlanta. It’s a maddening trend by the Steelers. Atlanta may be 5-8, but it’s still, laughably, it’s good enough for 1st place in the NFC South, so the Falcons will be fighting for their lives in this one. I’m going to stick my neck out there again for the Steelers. I mean, come on, Big Ben, indoors, against the worst defense in the NFL. What could go wrong? Steelers 38 Falcons 30

 

Team Rankings

Total Offense: Steelers rank 2nd / Falcons rank 8th

Rushing: Steelers rank 8th / Falcons rank 23rd

Passing: Steelers rank 2nd / Falcons rank 5th

 

Total Defense: Steelers rank 19th / Falcons rank 32nd

Rushing: Steelers rank 9th / Falcons rank 21st

Passing: Steelers rank 23rd / Falcons rank 32nd

 

Game Information

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) at Atlanta Falcons (5-8)

Venue: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA.

Game-time: Sunday, December 12th at 1:00 PM

TV: CBS

Weather: Dome

Vegas Line: Pittsburgh (-2)

 

Game Notes

* Steelers lead the overall series against the Falcons at 12-2-1. Steelers lead the series playing away at 6-2.

* Last Regular-Season Meeting: Sept. 12, 2010 in Pittsburgh- Pittsburgh 15 Atlanta 9

* Ben Roethlisberger is 275 passing yards from surpassing his Steelers single-season record of 4,328 in 2009.

* If Le’Veon Bell has 200 yards from scrimmage on Sunday, will become the first player in NFL history to do so in four straight games.  Is 111 yards from scrimmage away from setting a Steelers single-season record (Barry Foster, 2,034, 1992).

* Antonio Brown with his eighth catch, will set a Steelers single-season record (Hines Ward, 112, 2002).  Needs 125 receiving yards to set a new career high and
team record (1,499 in 2013).

 

Injury Report (12/12/2014)

Pittsburgh Steelers

Out:

Doubtful: CB Ivan Taylor (shoulder, forearm)

Questionable: LB James Harrison (knee)

Probable: CB William Gay (quadricep), T Marcus Gilbert (ankle), DE Cameron Heyward (not injury related), TE Heath Miller (not injury related), C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle), QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)

 

Atlanta Falcons

Out: CB Robert Alford (wrist)

Doubtful:

Questionable: RB Patrick DiMarco (illness), WR Julio Jones (hip), S William Moore (foot)

Probable: G Jon Asamoah (back), G Justin Blalock (back), WR Harry Douglas (foot), DE Stansly Maponga (elbow, not injury related), DT Paul Soliai (shoulder), WR Roddy White (ankle)

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Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

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