Devil Went Down to Georgia Dome
TV: CBS (map)
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates
What To Watch For
1. Julio Jones
Julio Jones absolutely went off last week against Green Bay. Anyone who watched the Monday Night game was surely filled with trepidation over how the Steelers could even hope to cover Julio. Then, Jones left the game with an injury and didn't return. He didn't practice all week and is listed as "questionable" for the game. I'm never one to wish injury on any player, but Julio Jones playing or not playing completely changes the outlook on the game. Simply put, the Steelers don't have anyone that can cover him. If Jones is held out because of his hip injury, the Steelers will catch a huge break in facing Harry Douglas rather than Julio. If he does play, it could very well be the Julio Jones vs Antonio Brown game. Jones is 2nd in the league in receptions and leads the league in receiving yards while Brown leads the league in receptions and is second in yards.
2. The Assault on the Record Books
This has been an incredible offensive season for the Steelers. Antonio Brown is having the best season of any Steelers receiver in history. He needs only 8 catches to break Hines Ward's single season receptions record of 112 and 125 yards to break his own single-season receiving yards record. Brown needs 2 TDs to break the receiving touchdowns record which is shared by Louis Lipps and Hines Ward and 6 TDs to break Willie Parker's record of 16 total TDs in a season. In the backfield, Le'Veon Bell probably won't break Barry Foster's single-season rushing record (he would need to average 153 yards per game over the last 3 to do it) but he will break Foster's record for yards from scrimmage. Bell needs just 110 yards of offense (either rushing or receiving) to break Foster's record. Bell needs 70 receiving yards to break Ray Mathews' record for receiving yards by a running back, set all the way back in 1955. Ben Roethlisberger needs 37 completions, 274 yards and 4 TDs to break his single-season records in each of those categories. All three could happen today.
3. You Thought Our Defense Was Bad...
The Steelers defense has been awful this season. They have given up leads, haven't been able to stop the run, haven't generated pressure on the quarterback and haven't been able to defend the deep ball. In short, this is not a typical Steelers defense. However, for as bad as it has been, Atlanta's defense is worse. Last week against Green Bay, Jordy Nelson ran around Atlanta's secondary like there were 4 Mike Mitchell's back there. The Falcons have the worst passing defense in the league and are allowing opponents 295 yards per game. They are also in the bottom half of the league in run defense and are last in total defense. To make matters worse, the Falcons can't get after the passer and have recorded only 15 sacks all season.
4. Getting Hot At The Right Time
Atlanta is only 5-8 but is tied for first in the NFC South. They do not need to win this game in order to win the division (amazingly). All the Falcons need to do is win their last 2 games against New Orleans and Carolina and they are guaranteed the division title. That said, the Falcons aren't going to simply lay down for the Steelers. The Falcons have won 3 of their last 5 games after their bye week. They are getting hot at the right time and if Julio Jones is in the lineup boast an explosive passing game that could give the Steelers secondary problems. On the other hand, the Steelers entered last weekend on the outside of the playoff picture and after demolishing Cincinnati, the rest of the games couldn't have gone better. The Steelers went to bed on Monday night on top of the Wild Card race and only a half game back in the division. The Steelers are trending in the right direction, having won 5 of 7 since their 3-3 start, but their two losses were to the Jets and Saints. The Steelers consistently play down to the level of their opponents so don't expect this one to be easy. As we saw last week, the playoff race can change dramatically in just one weekend so the Steelers need to keep winning to stay ahead of the curve.
5. Scoreboard Watching
The Steelers are a half game back of the Bengals for the lead in the AFC North and currently sit in the first Wild Card position thanks to tiebreakers over Baltimore and San Diego. However, their situation is precarious as there are two teams tied with them at 8-5 (Baltimore and San Diego) and 5 more teams sitting just a game back at 7-6 (Cleveland, Miami, Buffalo, Kansas City, Houston). Here are the games to keep an eye on tomorrow.
This game is getting national recognition now that Johnny Football is starting for the Browns. A Steelers win and a Browns loss would all but knock Cleveland out of the playoff hunt. However, a Steelers win and Bengals loss would put the Steelers on top of the division. The best thing that will happen here is that someone will lose.
Yeah, just write this one off now. No way Jacksonville goes into Baltimore and wins. Baltimore will move to 9-5, book it.
This will be the second straight week that Tom Brady and the Patriots can do the Steelers a big favor by knocking off another team in the wild card hunt. The Patriots are 10-3 and firmly in control of the AFC East. They also have the tiebreaker for the #1 seed over Denver, so they just need to keep winning to get homefield advantage. Rooting for Tom Brady sucks, but it's better than Miami getting to 8 wins.
Before the Browns made Johnny Football their quarterback, the Packers-Bills game was going to get top national billing on FOX. This game might be closer than most expect as the Bills defense is very good and could give Aaron Rodgers some problems. The Packers could do the Steelers a big favor by knocking off the Bills in Buffalo.
A few weeks ago, it looked like the Chiefs were on their way to challenging the Broncos for supremacy atop the AFC West. Then they went out to Oakland and lost to the 0-10 Raiders on national television. After dropping a game to Arizona last week because of their totally inept offense, the Chiefs are in a precarious situation with a trip to Pittsburgh looming next week. It would probably be too much to hope for for Oakland to beat Kansas City twice, right?
The Steelers have head-to-head wins over both of these teams. The Steelers are a game ahead of Houston in the Wild Card race and a game behind Indianapolis overall, which could come into play if the Steelers are able to surpass the Bengals in the division. Like with the Cincinnati-Cleveland game, the best news here is that someone will lose.
San Diego has an absolutely brutal schedule down the stretch. After facing New England last week they now get Denver at home this week. The Chargers are one of the 8-5 teams tied with the Steelers right now so we definitely need them to lose. Yes, it sucks having to cheer for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in the same weekend, but the Steelers will need all the help they can get.