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Steelers vs. Falcons: Week 3 NFL preseason preview

Notes and insights into the Steelers Week 3 preseason matchup with the Falcons.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

As the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons for each team’s third preseason game. it seems an appropriate time to take a brief look at the series history, as well as a look forward to some things we might see. Kickoff is set for Thursday, August 24 at 6:30 p.m. ET from Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Steelers hold a 15-2-1 record against the Falcons in regular season games. While the end results are utter domination, the individual games don’t play out so one-sided. Only once in the last eight meetings has the game been decided by more than a touchdown. Three consecutive games during that eight-game stretch went to overtime, with each team going 1-1-1.

The most recent meeting was last December with the Steelers victorious 19-16. The Falcons mounted a comeback after being down 19-6 late in the third quarter. The Steelers tried to run out the clock on their final drive but ended up punting with 53 seconds left. Pressley Harvin’s punt would pin down Atlanta at the 2-yard line and Minkah Fitzpatrick would intercept Marcus Mariota on the next play to end the Falcons hopes.

What’s new in Atlanta

The Fitzpatrick interception would be the last play as a Falcon for Mariota. He was benched in favor of rookie Desmond Ridder who would finish out 2022 and will start 2023 at QB. Free agent signee Taylor Heinicke will back up Ridder.

The Falcons attempted to bolster their defense (23rd in points allowed, 27th in yards allowed) with the signings of S Jesse Bates, DL Calais Campbell, DL David Onyemata, and former Steeler Edge Bud Dupree. Ohio State’s Edge Zach Harrison would be added in the third round of the draft.

On offense, the Falcons ranked third in rushing yards, so of course they used the No. 8 overall pick in the draft to select RB Bijan Robinson, followed by the selection of OL Matthew Bergeron in the second round. The Falcons have now invested three top-10 picks in a row in the skill positions, starting with TE Kyle Pitts (2021), WR Drake London (2022), and now, Robinson. If Atlanta is playing their starters it will be a challenge for the Steelers linebackers and secondary to corral all three of these guys.

For the Steelers, Mike Tomlin has again said that all healthy players will see the field for Pittsburgh. Other than Jaylen Warren’s 62-yard touchdown run the Steelers haven’t got much going on the ground in the first two preseason games. Look for more of a focus on the run game and see if the Steelers have success against those Falcon defensive reinforcements lining up around two-time Pro Bowl DT Grady Jarrett.

Family Ties

  • Bud Dupree signed with the Falcons this spring after missing 17 games over two injury-plagued seasons in Tennessee.
  • Two Steeler safeties got their start in Atlanta as Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee were selected by the Falcons in the first and fifth rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, respectively.
  • Other notable players to wear both helmets include OT Wayne Gandy, CB D.J. Johnson, K Norm Johnson, QB Byron Leftwich, RB Erric Pegram, and QB Michael Vick.