Welcome to the most comprehensive Pittsburgh Steelers Game Day Preview on the internet! This is your one stop shop for everything you need to know about the Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a Game Preview, the Steeler’s Keys to Victory, Score Prediction, a detailed breakdown of each team, Fantasy Football Impact, Game Information, Individual Stats, Team Stats, and the latest Injury Report. Heck, you even get the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!
STEELERS SEEK CRITICAL HOME VICTORY VS FALCONS
Home for the Steelers is usually a fortress. Whether it was Three Rivers Stadium or Heinz Field, a trip to Pittsburgh meant a loss for most teams that went up against the Steelers.
Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, the Steelers own the NFL’s best home record at 268-105-1.
Heading into Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, the Steelers have lost three straight games at home, and four of five overall. With an already paltry record of 1-2-1, Pittsburgh had better find a way to gain their winning ways again in the comforts of their home.
“You don’t like to lose anytime,” center Maurkice Pouncey said, “but nobody likes to lose at home.”
The Steelers also don’t like to start their games on time. Against the Jaguars last January in the playoffs, the Steelers fell behind 14-0. In this season’s home opener, they trailed the Chiefs 21-0. Last week it was a 14-0 deficit to Baltimore.
The fans have more than voiced their displeasure.
“You hate it, getting booed at home,” guard David DeCastro said. “These fans are so great and you don’t give them anything to cheer for, it sucks. It almost felt like a practice out there. It was disappointing. We had no energy.”
Many fans are looking to take the heads of the coaching staff. DeCastro disagreed with the coaches being blamed.
“You’ve gotta give fans something to cheer about,” he said. “We started slow. We started really slow. It’s tough for us, tough for our fans, tough for our defense. … We have to set the tone. We’ve been slow, and we’ve been sloppy. Playing catchup is not fun to do.”
The Steelers have never lost more than three games at home under Mike Tomlin.
“Luckily, I’ve been part of some good teams,” said DeCastro, who is in his seventh season with the Steelers. “I’d like to keep it that way.”
If the Steelers want to keep that stat alive, playing to the best of their abilities better become reality come 1:00 pm Sunday afternoon.
One area that needs improvement is the nonexistent pass rush. The days of Blitzburgh seem like a distant memory.
“We’ve got to create duress in that pocket,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’ve got to aid our secondary in terms of the coverage and making our quarterback throw out of a well.”
The Steelers have recorded 13 sacks on the year, but seven of those came in the opener vs Cleveland. Against Pat Mahomes and Joe Flacco, both QB’s could’ve ordered a pizza while scanning for open receivers.
“We’ve had our ups and down starting the season, no doubt,” outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo said. “We need to get better as whole unit pass rushing.”
Coaches have had their normally pass rushing outside linebackers doing anything but lately.
“Of course you’re gonna want extra stats, you wanna do more stuff,” outside linebacker Bud Dupree said. “But the way our defense is, we’re asked to do a lot more stuff that can take away from that, (such as) being in coverage. Our skillset, a lot of guys that play outside linebacker can’t do the things me and T.J. do.”
T.J. Watt echoed Dupree’s words.
“We’re doing a lot of things, like dropping into coverage,” Watt said. “Alot of them (quarterbacks) are getting the ball out pretty quick, and their pass protection are doing a good job on chips and everything.”
That lays the burden of getting to the quarterback on the shoulders of defensive ends Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
“I think our four-man rush has to improve,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. “And I think it will. They were good to us last year.”
As a whole, the defense is confident they will turn it around soon.
“We will keep getting better week-in and week-out,” Watt said, “and hopefully we will begin to see results.”
Results will be needed as Matt Ryan and the Atlanta offense has been humming this year. Already armed with Julio Jones and an emerging Calvin Ridley, Ryan will likely get back his starting running back in Devonta Freeman, who missed the first four games with a knee contusion.
“You’ve got to acknowledge the presence of Freeman as a significant one,” Tomlin said. “This is a guy with a tremendous, downhill, one-cut run demeanor that’s good for a unit. He’s a physical, combative runner. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. If he’s available to them, obviously, he’s a significant contributor.”
Steelers Keys To Victory
- Wake up Ben Roethlisberger!
- Block for James Conner.
- Get all receivers involved in game-plan.
- Can someone sack Matt Ryan?
- Get Off the Field on 3rd Downs.
- Create some turnovers!
With the Falcon’s defense giving up an average of 30.5 points per game, the Steelers offense should be able to get back on track this week. There’s way too much talent for an offense of this caliber to score zero points in the last four quarters of 2nd half play.
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown haven’t exactly been on the same wavelength lately.
“It’s like Wi-Fi,” Brown said Friday. “Sometimes the connection is poor. Sometimes the connection is great. But it’s always connected.”
Big Ben pointed the finger at himself.
“I think I just have to play better to help him get his numbers, which would help us get wins,” Roethlisberger said.
Mike Tomlin is confident his dynamic duo will get their acts together soon.
“They’ll smooth it out,” Tomlin said. “Oftentimes people spend a lot of time to minimize tandems such as (Roethlisberger and Brown), and usually over the course of the journey the cream rises, and they’ll show what they are capable of. They have done it for a long time. They’ll be the formidable tandem that they always are.”
It’s put up or shut up time for this team. A win Sunday, followed by a win next week at Cincinnati would give the team a 3-2-1 record and some momentum heading into their bye. LeVeon Bell is expected to return to the team during the bye week and be available against the Browns the week after.
Look for a high scoring affair with the Steelers finding a way to sent Atlanta to a 1-4 record come Sunday evening.
Steelers 38 Falcons 30
NFL Week 5
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Atlanta Falcons
Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.
Kickoff: Sunday, October 7th, at 1:00 pm
TV: FOX (locally WPGH-TV, channel 53) | Announcers: Chris Myers (play-by-play) Daryl Johnston (analyst) | Laura Okmin (sideline)
Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM/970 WBGG-AM | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Tunch Ilkin (analyst) | Craig Wolfley (sideline)
National Radio: Sports Radio USA | Announcers: Kevin Kugler (play-by-play) Jason Taylor (analyst)
Weather at Kickoff: 81 and partly cloudy.
Vegas Line: Steelers -3.5
Fantasy Football Focus
- Start: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB James Conner, WR Antonio Brown, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
- Sleeper: TE Vance McDonald
- Sit: TE Jesse James, Steelers D
- Start: QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones, WR Calvin Ridley
- Sleeper: TE Austin Hooper
- Sit: RB Tevin Coleman, RB Devonta Freeman
- Series History: Series began in 1966
- The Steelers are 13-2-1 in the overall Regular Season series against the Falcons
- Steelers are 6-0-1 at Home vs the Falcons
- Streak: Steelers won previous two meetings
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Dec. 14, 2014, in Atlanta (Pittsburgh 27 Atlanta 20)
- Steelers are 0-0 in the Post-Season vs the Falcons
- Last Post-Season Meeting:
- Ben Roethlisberger needs 13 touchdown passes to record No. 350 in his NFL career.
- Roethlisberger is one 300-yard passing game from notching 57 such games in his regular-season NFL career
- Antonio Brown needs one touchdown catch to tie John Stallworth (63) for the third-most scoring receptions in franchise history.
- Brown, with 100 catches in 2018, will become the first player in NFL history to record 100 or more receptions in six consecutive years.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster is two touchdown receptions shy of 10 in his NFL career.
- T.J. Watt needs five sacks to reach 15 in his NFL career.
- Cam Heyward is two sacks from becoming the third Steelers’ defensive lineman to accumulate 40 quarterback takedowns since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.
A look at the Pittsburgh Steelers!
- Overall Record: 1-2-1
- Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (12th Season with Steelers)
- Overall Regular Season Record: 117-62-1 (.653)
- Playoff Record: 8-7 (Qualified for playoffs 8 times)
- 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers Roster
- Steelers Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats
- Last Game: Baltimore 26 Pittsburgh 14
Scouting the Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger is looking to have one his best seasons yet. Big Ben’s big arm, along with his uncanny ability to slip out of the pocket and extend plays makes him one one of the league’s best.
Le’Veon Bell is one of the league’s best backs. He is dynamic in both running and catching the ball out of the backfield, but until he signs his contract and reports to the team… who cares? James Conner is more than capable of shouldering a starters share of carries. He has slimmed down and has added speed and quickness to an already powerful running style. Jaylen Samuels is an H-Back type of player that can line up all over the field. He is especially dangerous catching passes out of the backfield. Steven Ridley is a capable runner that can be counted upon on an as needed basis.
What more can you say about Antonio Brown? He is the league’s best wide receiver. His dedication and drive to be the best is unmatched by any player in the league. JuJu Smith-Schuster heads into his 2nd season and looks to make even more of an impact than he made as a rookie. Speaking of rookies, James Washington was a Camp favorite of Roethlisberger, and could quickly establish himself as a dangerous weapon in the slot as the 3rd receiver. Justin Hunter is a nice deep threat. Darrius Heyward-Bey is mainly used on special teams. Ryan Switzer will see time in the passing game at times, but his value is best used in the return game.
Jesse James is reliable as ever. Vance McDonald is looking to make a big impact in his 2nd year as a Steeler, looking to build off a 10-catch, 112-yard day in a postseason loss to the Jaguars. Xavier Grimble provides a big target for Roethlisberger in the Red Zone.
Up front, the Steelers deploy Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt as their defensive ends. In the middle, Javon Hargrave and Daniel McCullers will rotate. Tyson Alualu and Kameron Canaday will see time at defensive end as well. L.T. Walton can play all three spots.
The linebacker unit goes Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt on the outside, with Vince Williams and Jon Bostic in the middle. Anthony Chickillo and Matthew Thomas back-up Dupree and Watt, while L.J. Fort and Tyler Matakevich are reserves in the middle.
In the secondary, Artie Burns and Joe Haden are the starters at cornerback. Backing them up will be Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, and Coty Sensabaugh. Rookie Terrell Edmunds starts at strong safety, with Morgan Burnett backing him up and seeing plenty of action in nickle and dime formations. Sean Davis is the starter yet again at free safety, with Nat Berhe and Marcus Allen as reserves.
- Ben Roethlisberger (1,414 yards passing | 8 TD passes | 5 interceptions | 9 sacks | 23 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
- James Conner (232 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s | 15 receptions | 139 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Jaylen Samuels (0 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Stevan Ridley (20 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 1 receptions | 5 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Roosevelt Nix (0 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 1 receptions | 19 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Juju Smith-Schuster (31 receptions | 416 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Antonio Brown (29 receptions | 272 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
- Ryan Switzer (11 receptions | 55 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- James Washington (5 receptions | 49 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Justin Hunter (1 receptions | 6 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Darrius Heyward-Bey (0 receptions | 0 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Vance McDonald (12 receptions | 200 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Jesse James (10 receptions | 228 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Xavier Grimble (0 receptions | 0 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Chris Boswell (Extra Point: 9-11 | FG: 3-6 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 0-0 | 30-39: 3-3 | 40-49: 0-3 | 50+: 0-0 | Long: 39)
A look at the Atlanta Falcons!
- Overall Record: 1-3
- Head Coach: Dan Quinn (4th Season with Falcons)
- Overall Regular Season Record: 30-22 (.577) | 30-22 (.577) with Falcons
- Playoff Record: 3-2 (Qualified for playoffs 2 times)
- 2018 Atlanta Falcons Roster
- Atlanta Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats
- Last Week: Cincinnati 37 Atlanta 36
Scouting the Falcons
Matt Ryan is back in form lighting up opposing defenses. Not the most mobile of guys, but he still has escapability to hurt you. Ryan has 10 TD’s so far with just two INT’s.
Tevin Coleman leads the team with 210 yards rushing, and is also utilized out of the backfield catching passes. Ito Smith was the back-up, but both Coleman and Smith will look to take a backseat to returning starter Devonta Freeman.
Julio Jones is the #1 on this team , but Calvin Ridley has emerged as being just as dangerous, as evident by his six touchdown catches out of 15 receptions. Mohamed Sanu is a big option in the Falcons passing attack as well.
Austin Hooper isn’t a superstar, but he gets the job done when targeted.
Think the Steelers defense has played bad? The Falcons defensive unit is allowing 30.5 PPG! The scoreboard operator will be busy Sunday.
- Matt Ryan (1,316 yards passing | 10 TD passes | 2 interceptions | 10 sacks | 43 yards rushing | 1 TD’s)
- Tevin Coleman (210 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 10 receptions | 84 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Ito Smith (75 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 7 receptions | 62 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Devonta Freeman (0 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Julio Jones (22 receptions | 502 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Mohamed Sanu (16 receptions | 184 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Calvin Ridley (15 receptions | 264 receiving yards | 6 receiving TD’s)
- Austin Hooper (12 receptions | 125 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Matt Bryant (Extra Point: 10-11 | FG: 6-6 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 2-2 | 30-39: 1-1 | 40-49: 1-1 | 50+: 2-2 | Long: 55)
Steelers – Falcons: Offense vs Defense Match-Up
- Steelers Offense: Steelers average 425.8 YPG | Falcons defense allows 403 YPG
- Rushing: Steelers average 72.3 YPG | Falcons defense allows 119 YPG
- Passing: Steelers average 353.5 YPG | Falcons defense allows 284 YPG
- Scoring: Steelers average 25.5 PPG | Falcons defense allows 30.5 PPG
- Steelers Defense: Steelers allow 420.5 YPG | Falcons offense averages 425 YPG
- Rushing: Steelers allow 115.8 YPG | Falcons offense averages 96 YPG
- Passing: Steelers allow 304.8 YPG | Falcons offense averages 329 YPG
- Scoring: Steelers allow 29 PPG | Falcons offense averages 29 PPG
Injury Report (10/5/2018)
- Out: RB Le’Veon Bell (Contract)
- Doubtful: S Morgan Burnett (Groin), WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (Ankle), LB Vince Williams (Hamstring)
- Questionable: None
- Out: DE Derrick Shelby (Groin), CB Justin Bethal (Knee), DT Grady Jarrett (Ankle/Knee)
- Doubtful: None
- Questionable: None
Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 Schedule
Thursday, Aug. 9 @ Philadelphia W, 31-14 (KDKA)
Thursday, Aug. 16 @ Green Bay L, 51-34 (KDKA)
Saturday, Aug. 25 TENNESSEE W, 16-6 (KDKA/NFL Network)
Thursday, Aug. 30 CAROLINA W, 39-24 (KDKA)
REGULAR SEASON (1-2-1)
Sunday, Sept. 9 @ Cleveland 1 p.m. (CBS) | TIE- 21-21
Sunday, Sept. 16 KANSAS CITY 1 p.m. (CBS) | L- 42-37
Monday, Sept. 24 @ Tampa Bay 8:15 p.m. | W- 30-27
Sunday, Sept. 30 BALTIMORE 8:20 p.m. | L- 26-14
Sunday, Oct. 7 ATLANTA* 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sunday, Oct. 14 @ Cincinnati* 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Oct. 21 BYE WEEK
Sunday, Oct. 28 CLEVELAND* 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Nov. 4 @ Baltimore* 1 p.m. (CBS)
Thursday, Nov. 8 CAROLINA 8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFL Network/Amazon)
Sunday, Nov. 18 @ Jacksonville* 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday, Nov. 25 @ Denver* 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Dec. 2 LOS ANGELES CHARGERS* 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Dec. 9 @ Oakland* 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday, Dec. 16 NEW ENGLAND* 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Monday, Dec. 23 @ New Orleans* 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Dec. 30 CINCINNATI* 1 p.m. (CBS)
* – Times may change due to flexible scheduling
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 5-6 Wild Card Weekend
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 12-13 Divisional Playoff Games
Sunday, Jan. 20 Conference Championships
Sunday, Jan. 27 Pro Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)
Sunday, Feb. 3 Super Bowl LIII (Atlanta, Ga.)
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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As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides top notch opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania, including WPIAL High School Football.
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