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Three Keys: Beating Atlanta

In what may be the most important game of the first half of the season, the Steelers attempt to get back to .500 and build momentum for the rest of this critical stretch. Let's take a look at the three most important keys to beating the Falcons.

1. Make Vick beat you with his arm.

The Falcons are at their best when the running game - Vick included - is in peak form. The best bet for shutting down what can be, on occasion, an explosive offense, is to swarm the rushers - whether that be Vick or Warrick Dunn. Dick LeBeau would be well served to tweak the defense to a base defense that's honed in on taking away the big plays and making Atlanta execute long, sustained drives. The Falcons possess an offense that can make you pay with the big play if you get too cute. LeBeau can't fall into that trap.

2. Don't be afraid to pass the ball.

After last week's embrassing meltdown against New York, I fully expect the Falcons to come into this game with one goal in mind - shut down the run. Steeler fans should remember that the key to the playoff run last season was to exploit opposing defense's over-commitment to stopping the Steeler run game. As each team lined up ready for the Steelers zig, Whisenhunt came out with a zag. Pittsburgh got the lead and then used the run game to grind out the victory. With Ben getting comfortable for the first time this season, and the apparent rapport he's building with the receivers, I'd love to see us open things up early. Time for Pitt to go West Coast - open up the run game with the pass game.

3. Protect the football.

I think Pittsburgh's been better than most of their opponents, even in the losses. It's been turnovers that have killed this team. To the extent that Ben and the offense can minimize turnovers, we'll be in a great position to win the game. Time for Pittsburgh to start taking advantage of their superiority in these games. A loss this week would put Pittsburgh in a dicey situation, needing a win at Denver.