Sunday, September 12, 2010

Gameday 1: Atlanta Falcons

Heinz Field
Radio: 102.5 WDVE

It's finally here. The moment we've been waiting for since January.

What to Watch For:

1. Dennis Dixon under center. Starting his second NFL game, Dixon should have a more expanded playbook than what he had in Baltimore last year. While the Steelers should look to run first, pass second, we would come out throwing because Atlanta would be expecting run. 

2. The new Offensive Line. The line looked mediocre to say the least in the preseason. Maurkice Pouncey is an absolute beast, but this game is going to be more about how the tackles deal with Atlanta's 4-3 defensive front. The Falcons like to blitz with their linebackers, and the tackles are going to have to deal with Atlanta's speed rushers to give Dixon time to throw.

3. Fourth Quarter Defense. Was last year a fluke? Will getting Polamalu and McFadden back help the secondary shut things down at the end of games? We'll see today.

4. Kick Coverage. This unit was abysmal last year, but keeping Anthony Madison on the roster should help. Special Teams beast Patrick Bailey was cut and signed by Tennessee, leaving a hole that hopefully Stevenson Sylvester, Jason Worlids, or Thaddeus Gibson can fill.

Behind Enemy Lines

This week's guest is our friend Scott from, a go-to source for NFL Draft information. For rabid fandom of Atlanta teams, and insights on draft prospects, follow Scott on Twitter.

1. Both teams are coming into this game with different perspectives. Atlanta is being dubbed as a potential contender in the NFC and are trying to get off to a fast start. The Steelers are just trying to get by until Ben Roethlisberger's suspension is over. What do you think Atlanta needs to do to walk away from Heinz Field with a victory?

Atlanta needs to do what any team that plays the Steelers will need to do: Stop the run, and run the ball well. With Michael Turner coming back healthy and the line having yet another full year under their belt, this could be a very hard running game to stop. The defense in Atlanta should also be much improved with not only Weatherspoon, but also Jerry and Robinson coming in to start.

2. Atlanta had one of the worst pass defenses in the league last year. Do you feel like they added enough to their defense this season to make a run at the division title?

Atlanta had a bad pass defense based on the yardage stats. With Jerry coming back and Peters coming in, as well as having Biermann really step up and Sidbury get more playing time, I think the defense will get much better against the pass. Not to mention the addition of Dunta Robinson to the secondary where the biggest hole was at the #1 CB spot last year.

3. The gameplan is obviously very different with Dennis "the Menace" Dixon under center. Do you think Atlanta will sit back and wait for Dixon to make a mistake, keeping a linebacker spy on him at all times or come after him with blitzes and trust in the secondary to hold down the fort?

Atlanta will treat Dixon just like they would treat any other starting QB and have a gameplan fully developed. Knowing the way Brian Van Gorder likes to scheme once he gets his type of personnel in there (and he finally has it), you will see a lot of Zone Blitzes as well as a lot of base cover 2.

4. Most people know the names of Atlanta's big playmakers -- Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, and Roddy White. Any lesser-known (or under the radar) players that you think will have a big impact on this game?

Ryan, Gonzalez, Turner and White are all great, but Baker-Blalock-McClure-Dahl-Clabo will have a bigger impact. Also, watch out for Harry Douglas, Kroy Biermann, and Thomas Decoud.

5. Any other final thoughts?

Nope. Good luck this weekend. And may the better team, Atlanta, win!


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