First Impressions – Falcons @ Steelers

| August 28, 2011

If there’s one thing Pittsburgh knows how to do well its football, even preseason football. The atmosphere in the stadium was amazing and one could be forgiven for thinking these two were playing in a game that really mattered.
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The first half was a far cry from the defensive battle we saw last year in Week 1. That game went to overtime with the Steelers eventual winners 15-9. In contrast, both offenses put together long drives and scored points in this contest. By the time the starters left the game, 40 combined points were tallied and both QBs looked in midseason form.
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Atlanta Falcons – three things of note
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● Considering how much the Falcons gave up to get Julio Jones, expectations for him are understandably high. One of the criticisms of Jones coming out of Alabama was his concentration, and that showed up in this game. His first target resulted in a drop on a slant and he later dropped a deep ball having got behind the Pittsburgh defense. Still, there were positives, as he caught five of the 11 balls that came his way for 66 yards. Jones certainly knows how to get open and shows impressive speed after the catch
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● With Harvey Dahl now a St Louis Ram, the Falcons are going to need to find a long term solution at right guard. Against the Steelers they rotated Garret Reynolds and Mike Johnson at the position, with the latter having the better game. Reynolds struggled some in pass protection, giving up a hit and generally being unable to hold his ground against the bull rush. Johnson, meanwhile, only allowed a pressure and did a better job of anchoring against bigger defensive linemen. Neither man stood out in the run game but Johnson had a couple of nice moments.
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● Sophomore outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is looking to build on a disappointing rookie season. He struggled to start the game, biting up on play action allowing a first down to the tight end. The Steelers came back with almost the exact same play on the ensuing first down and again Weatherspoon was beaten for a long completion. A horrible first drive culminated in Willie Colon sealing him on first-and-goal, leaving Mendenhall to go in untouched for six. Weatherspoon still looks a little weak in the run game and failed to generate any pressure when blitzing.
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Pittsburgh Steelers – three things of note
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● It was a shame cornerback Keenan Lewis was knocked out of the game with an injury because he was playing well before being sidelined. Lewis got his chance with both Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden out with injuries. His numbers, before being forced to leave the field, were good. He allowed just two completions on five targets with two pass deflections.
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● Second year wide receiver Andre Brown could join his teammate Mike Wallace as one of the most explosive players in the NFL. He opened the game with a long kick return to midfield, showing nice speed on decisiveness. In the receiving department, he finished with four receptions on five targets with two touchdowns, both over 40 yards. The Atlanta secondary was simply no match for his blazing speed.
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● Rookie offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert again got a chance to start at left tackle. While he shows some ability in the run game, he’s still raw in pass protection. One thing that stood out was his ability in space. He made a nice block on a wide receiver screen and knocked a linebacker down on a toss play. However it was a different matter protecting his quarterback. He allowed one sack to John Abraham and was lucky to avoid another as the pass was called incomplete thanks to the tuck rule.
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These two teams are among the Super Bowl favorites and rightly so. Both defenses are good but the starting quarterbacks ripped them to shreds. Matt Ryan is one of our favorite quarterbacks here at PFF because of the difficulty of his pass attempts and Ben Roethlisberger isn’t far behind.

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