What a game by Antonio Brown. Man, I really can't say enough about how he played tonight. I really don't care that he got flagged for taunting. It's preseason, better to get it out of the system now. He's easily been the MVP of the preseason so far.
The Steelers won the toss and elected to receive. Touchdown Brown catches a seam and bounces it to the outside...
The Steelers offense goes to work and runs the same play-action pass to David Johnson twice, getting down to the 1 where Mendenhall punches it in untouched.
3 plays, 35 yards, 7 points. Can't complain about that.
The Falcons come out trying to work the 9-yard comeback routes and sideline routes. The Steelers first team defense is up to the challenge and locks it down.
The Steelers next drive was a disaster from start to finish, with a holding penalty, a sack, and Keenan Lewis getting flagged for running out of bounds on punt coverage (which by the way is a 15-yard penalty now? When did that happen?) had Sepulveda punting out of his own end zone.
The Falcons tried their hand at the ground game but it leaves them in a 3rd and 10. The Diesel gets pressure around the outside and forces a bad throw, which bounces off the helmet of a lineman and into the air.
The Law Dog goes up and snags the pick in front of Harry Douglas and takes off for the end zone.
He has a clear path but Douglas is able to run him down from behind at the 5.
Yeah, there is that.
The WR screen makes its first appearance of the game but doesn't get much and the offense can't find the end zone. More importantly, Pouncey went down with an ankle injury in this sequence. Not sure how serious it is. Suisham converts.
Ryan comes out hitting those same curl routes and sideline routes, working the short passing game down the field. The Falcons go to the no huddle and it seems to work, and leads them across midfield. The Falcons catch a break when Keenan Lewis is wildly out of position against Roddy White and Ryan finds him, getting them all the way down to the 5. Lewis atones for the mistake by breaking up a pass for White in the end zone, but injures himself in the process.
The defense locks it down and forces a field goal.
The Steelers respond with some no-huddle of their own, and 007 picks apart the Falcons defense, leading the troops up to midfield as the quarter ends.
Ben gets sacked to start the quarter and just misses Hines, who is in his own zip code running down the middle of the field.
In Hines' defense, Ben was under pressure and really just chucked it up. Sepulveda booms a punt, but Eric Weems takes it all the way back to the Steelers 38, setting the Falcons up in great position.
Matt Ryan takes full advantage of the great field position and converts two third downs, getting the Falcons down to the 10. Two plays later he hits White on a slant route with Troy in coverage for the score.
The Steelers next drive looks poised to stall out after two Mendenhall runs net little, but Ben finds Antonio Brown down the seam who makes a leaping grab behind a diving defender.
He blows between two defensive backs, turns on the afterburners and tears off for the end zone.
At around the 5 he turns around and taunts the defensive back, which draws a flag, and Brown celebrates by jumping into the stands.
What a play. What speed by Brown to break away.
Probably going to have to start calling him "Touchdown Brown" from now on.
The Falcons come back and put together another long drive with their no huddle offense. Ryan converted 3rd downs of 4 and 12 yards with passes to Julio Jones. Ryan took a shot deep for Jones, but he couldn't hang on. Ryan keeps working the short passes and is able to scramble away from some pressure to keep plays alive. I was really impressed with Ryan's escapability tonight. He showed some good quickness with his feet. The Falcons get it down to the 2, but an offensive pass interference call on Tony Gonzalez nullifies a touchdown and keeps them out of the end zone.
The starters come back out to run an extended 2-minute drill. Ben gets things rolling with a pass to Battle then a quick run by Moore to pick up the first down. Tomlin makes a questionable clock management decision and calls a timeout with a few ticks over 2 minutes on the clock. Hines makes up for it by making a leaping grab in front of a corner to get across midfield.
Two plays after the two minute warning, facing a 3rd and 10, Ben does his Ben thing and steps up away from pressure and guns one downfield for Touchdown Brown who makes a leaping grap over two defenders in the end zone for the score.
Touchdoooooown Brown throws down some Dancing With the Stars-esque moves in the end zone.
With 1:41 left on the clock, the Falcons run their 2 minute offense, which isn't much different from the no huddle they were running previously. It was pretty obvious that Ryan still really only trusts Roddy White in the passing game, he tried to force at least 3 passes tonight into double coverage for White, and seemed to target him almost exclusively in big situations. White converted 3rd downs of 10 and 7, moving the Falcons into field goal range.
At the half I find out Ryan had 42 pass attempts in the first half. That's just unreal. The Falcons had about an 80-20 pass-to-run ratio. That's just insane. Drew Bledsoe has the NFL record for pass attempts in a game with 70. If Ryan is going to throw 42 times in a half in a preseason game, is it really out of the question to think Ryan might take a run at that record this year? If the Saints jump out to a 2 TD lead against the Falcons, you really don't think Atlanta might throw 70 times in a game?
The Falcons second string offense comes out and pick up a few first downs against the Steelers starting defense, but the D locks it down once the Falcons cross midfield, forcing a punt.
Leftwich comes in to pretty much just hand off to Isaac Redman. Byron converts one 3rd down with a pass to Battle, then later on the drive tries to scramble for a 3rd down. He dives forward and falls awkwardly and you can tell he's hurt. He gets up just dangling his left arm. It was bad. He couldn't even move it...it was just hanging there. Word is its a broken arm in the upper half. Yikes.
Jaquizz Rodgers shows some elusiveness on the Falcons next drive. He may be small, but he's got short-range quickness and he is shifty. A few guys had him lined up in the crosshairs and just missed him. The Falcons move down to the edge of the red zone as the quarter expires.
For as long as the first half took, the third quarter went incredibly fast.
Chris Redman tries to take a shot to get the ball inside the 5 on another typical out-route, but the receiver slips and Crezdon Butler steps up and snags the interception, taking off down the sideline. He puts a move on a guy at midfield and is off to the races. Cam Heyward chugs downfield and gets a chip on Quizz Rodgers that enables Butler to have a free path to the end zone for a 95-yard return for the score.
The reward for a pick-6? Come back out and play more defense. The Steelers seem to have a 3-and-out forced, but an offsides on the punt keeps the drive alive but Redman can't complete a pass.
Dixon comes out to answer the question of who steps in now that Leftwich is down. Motif offense city. Run-run-pass. Punt.
The Falcons are still gunning and not running, obviously having no interest in running out the clock. They convert 3rd and 1 and 3rd and 11 on a well-designed screen pass. Steve McLendon gets the Steelers only sack of the game and finally puts an end to the Falcons threat.
The Jonathan Dwyer show takes over and he cuts one back and rumbles down the sideline for a big 28-yard gain to get us into field goal range. John Clay gets some totes and runs some people over. Dixon completed one pass this quarter, and it was to Woodland Hills and WVU alum Wes Lyons to get down inside the 10. An incompletion on 3rd and 2 brought out...
27-yarder right down the pipe.
Atlanta fumbles on the first play. Baraka Atkins makes his second fumble recovery of the preseason.
Players of the Game
Offensive Game Ball: Antonio "Touchdown" Brown
Defensive Game Ball: Crezdon Butler
Mr. Yuck Sticker of the Game
Leftwich's injury was bad. It looked bad. It's never good to see a guy's arm just dangling there. Hopefully Pouncey is okay. He's definitely the most important of the bunch here. He probably wasn't going to play more than a drive next week anyways, but he needs to be healthy come September 11 in Baltimore.
- Can't say enough about how good of a preseason Antonio Brown is having. Wow. He's definitely taken his game to the next level, and with Manny Sanders out he's getting these reps with the first team against first team defenses.
- Really hope Pouncey's injury isn't serious.
- Leftwich's injury was really ugly, but thankfully we have the QB depth in Dixon and Batch to be okay entering the season.
- Great game from Crezdon Butler. Team high 9 tackles plus that pick-6. Great stuff. That should get him on the team.
- The Steelers have looked very good in the last 2 games. Looks like we should be in good shape entering the season, particularly once Ike and B-Mac get back on the field.
- With the win, the Steelers secure a .500 record in the preseason. Since 1999, every year the Steelers have had a .500 or better record in the preseason they have had a winning record in the regular season. Conversely, every year they have had a losing record in the preseason they have had a .500 or worse record in the regular season. We're looking forward to some big things next year.
- The Steelers have to make their first cuts this week, cutting their roster down from 90 to 75.