ReFo: Steelers @ Falcons, Week 15
Khaled Elsayed reviews a non-conference shootout in which both teams had playoff hopes on the line but only one brought enough pass rush to succeed.
ReFo: Steelers @ Falcons, Week 15
One team with nine wins, the other with five. Yet, despite the disparity, both teams find themselves in the middle of a battle for postseason play. The Pittsburgh Steelers did themselves the world of good with a commanding win over an Atlanta Falcons outfit that have now surrendered their lead of the NFC South.
While the scoreline was a mere seven points, it was a game that the Steelers always had an element of control over. The Falcons’ pass rushing woes ensured the Steelers had their way with them on third down to extend a number of drives, including one that would eventually ice the game.
Let’s take a look at some of the key performances.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Performances of Note
Cameron Heyward, DE: +4.3
Breakdown: It wasn’t a dominant showing, but it was one where Heyward got the better of his man enough to disrupt plays whether he was getting after the quarterback or stuffing the run. Biggest impact was felt rushing the passer where he walked away with a hit, three hurries and a batted pass.
Signature Play: Puts Jon Asamoah on skates with 4:27 to go in the second quarter, showing his power with a ferocious bull rush.
Antonio Brown, WR: +2.6 receiving
Breakdown: There was talk of Brown being shadowed by Desmond Trufant, and while that certainly was the case pre-snap, he got plenty of action against other defenders as evidenced by catching passes against six different players in primary coverage.
Signature Play: His 3.51 Yards Per Route Run bettered his season average of 2.61.
William Gay, CB: +2.5
Breakdown: The much-maligned Gay was expected to be a victim of the high-powered Falcons passing attack. Instead, he turned the tables with arguably his most important effort to date, with his pick-six being a huge play that put the Falcons in a position that they weren’t able to overcome. That wasn’t all he did, though, and while he allowed eight catches, he also had another pass break-up and came up quickly on two occasions to prevent any yards after the catch.
Signature Play: He waited for Matt Ryan to throw, and then pounced. Breaking in front of Harry Douglas at the start of the second quarter, picking off the Falcon and slaloming his way through blockers-come-defenders to score the game’s first touchdown.
Atlanta Falcons – Performances of Note
Harry Douglas, WR: +2.5 receiving
Breakdown: A good effort from Douglas, stepping up as best he could with Julio Jones being out. He’s not built to be as destructive as Jones, but he was a little bit craftier in how he turned some short screens into decent-sized gains.
Signature Stat: A total of 70 of his 131 yards came after the catch.
Atlanta’s Edge Rushers: -3.4 pass rush
Breakdown: You can bet that the Falcons will be paying particular attention to both the upcoming free agent market and draft class for pass rushers. While Jonathan Babineaux (one hit, four hurries) delivered some pressure, the speed demons off the edge once again were firing blanks. It’s been a common problem and was hard not to notice how easy life was for Big Ben in the pocket.
Signature Stat: The Atlanta edge rushers managed two hits and two hurries on a combined 71 pass rushes.
Jake Matthews, LT: +0.0
Breakdown: Is a zero grade noteworthy for the sixth overall pick? Given how Matthews started the year and injuries he’s had, it’s a sign of progress for a player who has a +1.3 grade over the past four weeks. He still has some issues when bull rushed and isn’t exactly jumping out with his work in the run game, but he’s far from a liability now, and that’s a start.
Signature Stat: After being called for a penalty 10 times in his first eight games, he hasn’t been called for one since.
PFF Game Ball
He didn’t need to test close coverage a lot, but Ben Roethlisberger made all the throws he needed to without ever looking like turning the ball over. The exact performance the Steelers needed to win this one.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled