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Steelers vs. Falcons Week 13 Preview: BTSC’s Q&A with The Falcoholic

Preparing for the Steelers and Falcons Week 13 showdown, I asked The Falcoholic some burning questions leading up to the AFC vs. NFC showdown.

NFL: NOV 20 Bears at Falcons Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their 2022 regular season Week 13 game with a trip to Atlanta, GA to play the Atlanta Falcons. A tough task for the Steelers who have yet to win back-to-back games this season.

With this being such a big game, not like every game isn’t a big game, I was able to ask Kevin Knight of The Falcoholic, SB Nation’s Falcons website, five questions leading up to the game.

Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.

The Steelers and Falcons have had similar years, including this past offseason. Both picked up free agent quarterbacks, and also drafted quarterbacks. The Steelers went with Pickett in Round 1, while the Falcons took Ridder in Round 3. The Steelers turned the page to Pickett midway through Week 4, while the Falcons have yet to give Ridder a shot. What does the fan base think of the current quarterback situation?

The clamoring for Desmond Ridder to start has reached a fever pitch thanks to the combination of mediocre-to-bad passing from veteran Marcus Mariota and the team falling two games below .500. If it were up to me, I would’ve turned to Ridder after the loss to the Panthers on Thursday Night Football in Week 10. But the Falcons are in a weird spot because of the weakness of the NFC South. Atlanta is just a half-game behind the Bucs (who are 5-6) for the division title. I think that has led the coaching staff to try and maximize their chances of making the playoffs by sticking with Mariota, who does offer plenty with his legs and occasionally makes some great throws. I’m not convinced that’s a good idea, or that Mariota truly gives the Falcons a better chance to win, but the team clearly disagrees.

When it comes to the Falcons offense and defense, what are the strengths of both units?

The Falcons offense is one of the NFL’s premier rushing attacks, as they’ve pounded opposing defenses to dust with their three-headed RB attack of Cordarrelle Patterson, rookie Tyler Allgeier, and second-year UDFA Caleb Huntley. When combined with Mariota’s running ability, they’re very tough to stop and have already put up nearly 2,000 rushing yards on the season. On defense, Atlanta doesn’t really have a strength. They’ve been...OK against the run, and to their credit, have kept almost all their games within a score thanks to their penchant for creating timely turnovers.

Conversely, what are the weaknesses of the Falcons’ offense and defense?

The Falcons passing offense is just incredibly inconsistent and limited, especially without Kyle Pitts. Even with Pitts, Mariota simply couldn’t hit any throws with consistency. Every pass is essentially a coin flip in terms of it being on target, and it makes stringing together successful drives difficult. On defense, the defensive line was thin to start the season and has been ravaged by injuries ever since. The pass rush is abysmal and the whole unit simply lacks talent outside of Grady Jarrett and rookie edge rusher Arnold Ebiketie. With so little cap space this year ($77M in dead cap), the Falcons simply couldn’t adequately address it.

The Falcons will be without Kyle Pitts for the rest of the regular season, who are some other offensive weapons Steelers fans should know who are not named Cordarrelle Patterson?

Rookie Drake London has been terrific, even in a very low-volume (and inconsistent) passing attack. I think London and Pitts, when he returns, can be a really dynamic and difficult-to-cover duo for the future. Former UDFA Olamide Zaccheaus has really stepped up as the WR2 and had a season-high 91 yards last week against the Commanders. Rookie running back Tyler Allgeier has looked like a starting-quality player alongside former UDFA Caleb Huntley, who both carried the load well in Patterson’s absence earlier this season.

DraftKings Sportsbook had the opening line on this game, which was before the Steelers Week 12 MNF, as the Falcons being 1.5-point favorites at home. Since the Steelers’ 24-17 win, the line has flipped and the Steelers are now 1-point road favorites. What do you think of this spread, and how do you see the game shaking out?

It seems like this one is basically a pick ‘em, which seems fair to me. The Steelers are clearly on the upswing after winning two of their last three (and beating the Saints, thanks for that!), while the Falcons are in the midst of an offensive slump. I’m going to lean Atlanta in this one, but I think it will be close and I expect a hard-fought game from Pittsburgh. Let’s say 23-20 Falcons.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for their Week 13 game vs. the Falcons this Sunday in Atlanta.