The Pittsburgh Steelers have had plenty of time to digest their 20-12 win over the New York Giants in Week 1 of the NFL preseason, and the Atlanta Falcons came to Heinz Field in Week 2 to give the black and gold a great test of their progression and improvement through the preseason.
However, this game was quite different in a lot of ways, primarily with the personnel available. In Week 1, the Steelers relied heavily on veteran Arthur Moats, and projected starter T.J. Watt, well into the fourth quarter due to a lack of depth at the outside linebacker position. In Week 2, the Steelers had more bodies available, not just at outside linebacker, but other key positions like cornerback and running back.
Those who were held out for a variety of reasons were: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, Mike Mitchell and Ryan Shazier were all out of the lineup.
After the Joshua Dobbs-led offense had a quick three-and-out, the Steelers defense, which was without some key pieces, allowed Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense to drive 91-yards for an opening touchdown, and 7-0 lead.
For the Steelers, it was more of the same, a three-and-out, as well as more of the same from the Falcons. Third string quarterback Matt Simms led the team down the field with ease, but they had to settle for a 23-yard field goal to extend their lead 10-0.
After both teams swapped field goals, it was more of the same for the Steelers. They failed to get off the field on third down, and had to rely on help to gain any yardage on offense. At halftime, the Steelers trailed the Falcons 13-3 and a generally ugly half on both sides of the football.
The ugliness continued into the second half, with neither offense able to muster a point-scoring drive; however, in the third quarter it was Trey Williams who sparked the Steelers offense with a 64-yard punt return for the first touchdown of the game.
The Chris Boswell point-after made the score 13-10 heading into the fourth quarter.
While the first half defense was sub-par for Pittsburgh, the second half defense, spawned by tremendous special teams, was making the stops necessary to give their offense good field position.
After forcing a punt early in the fourth quarter, James Conner got moving and drove the ball well into the red-zone, and was just inches away from scoring his first touchdown as a professional. However, the play ended up being a Bart Houston pass to Justin Hunter for the go-ahead score. After the Boswell kick, the Steelers took their first lead of the game 17-13.
Despite plenty of blunders, the Steelers defense pitched a shutout in the second half to preserve the 17-13 win, and their second preseason game in a row. The Steelers preseason records improves to 2-0 as they play the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3, the first, and probably last, time the Steelers’ starters will be in the game before the regular season.