Home > Steeler Articles > Steelers-Falcons Recap, Week 1

Steelers-Falcons Recap, Week 1

Well, it wasn’t easy (is it ever with this team?) but the Steelers squeak out the win, 15-9 in OT against a clearly inferior Atlanta Falcons team. It wasn’t very pretty but the important thing is the Steelers get the W to kick off the season.

– Dennis Dixon…Where to start? First let me say that Dixon COULD’VE played worse. He did have a few really nice throws but overall definitely looked like a #3 NFL QB and nothing more (and I’m being kind). Any passes outside the hash marks were a disaster, Dixon simply doesn’t have the arm to get the ball out there with any velocity. His INT was one of the worst thrown balls I’ve seen in a long time. On the play Heath Miller was WIDE open for what would’ve been a huge gain, maybe even a TD, but Dixon throws the ball right into the arms of a defender that was 5-6 yards away from Miller. Simply atrocious. Throughout the 1st half most of Dixon’s throws were thrown down towards the ground. Even on Hines Ward’s 21 yard reception (where he was wide open) in the 1st half, the ball was almost hitting the ground when Ward made the catch. Ward made a few acrobatic catches throughout the game on poorly thrown passes by Dixon. Dixon’s limitations as an NFL QB are pretty obvious now and it will make for some tough sledding in the games to come. Sports talking heads on TV and in the media will probably look at Dixon’s numbers (18/26 236 yards, 1 INT) and say something stupid like “Dixon played a great game overall.” Outside of a handful of passes (52 yard pass to Mike Wallace, three 20+ yard plays to a wide open Ward (I guess the Falcons forgot that Hines Ward is still playing)), Dixon did pretty much nothing for most of the game and was a liability at times. And to put this in further perspective, the Falcons defense looked AWFUL, Steeler receivers were running open the entire game.

– Rashard Mendenhall had a beautiful 50 yard TD run (and game winner) in OT. Mendenhall played pretty well overall, especially considering the Falcons defense was lining 8 up in the box for most of the game and expecting the run. There were a few runs where Mendenhall went down a little easier than you would expect but overall definitely no complaints. Isaac Redman gave the Steelers some much needed help in short yardage situations. He did get stood up on a big 3rd and 1 in the final minutes of regulation that led to Reed’s second missed FG.

– Hines Ward may have been invisible in preseason but definitely not in this game. Finishing the game with 6 catches for 108 yards, Ward was the go to guy for Dixon. Apparently the Falcons thought Ward wasn’t a threat because no one covered him on a number of catches where he found an extremely soft spot in the secondary 20 yards downfield. Ward also made a few really nice acrobatic grabs on poorly thrown passes by Dixon.

– The O-line had an extremely solid game, a lot was riding on these guys for the offense to be productive and they didn’t disappoint for the most part. Max Starks had his usual slip ups in pass protection, likewise for Flozell Adams, who also had a false start penalty (we better get used to that). Starks and Adams may be the most unathletic tackle duo in the NFL. The interior, led by Pouncy, had some real nice pushes on run plays and provided a nice pocket for Dixon to throw from.

– The Steelers defensive front seven had a great game. Creating no running lanes for Michael Turner, Atlanta’s run game was effectively a non-factor. The D-line did a great job of controlling the LOS. Lawrence Timmons was a complete beast in this game, this might be his breakout year. Timmons was flying from sideline to sideline, covering receivers with his speed and making his presence felt in the run game. He finished with 11 tackles, second on the team behind CB Bryant McFadden. The sack duo of Woodley and Harrison each had a sack. More importantly, the Steelers created havok all day on Matty Ice, getting pressure constantly on a variety of blitzes.

– The secondary had a really solid, if not spectacular, game. McFadden and Taylor both had good coverage although the 10 yard cushions made it easier on the Falcon WR’s. Falcon WR Roddy White finished with a career high 13 receptions! Mostly due to the cushion McFadden and Taylor routinely gave him. Clark looked decent although his presence wasn’t felt much outside of a few tackles on WR’s. Troy had a fairly low-key game by Troy standards but did have a huge INT in the final minutes of the game with a beautiful read on Matty Ice, running from his safety position all the way over to the sideline to make the play and keep his feet in.

– Special teams were either a non-factor or a liability, just like last year, what a shocker. The return department will remain a complete non-factor until someone on the roster proves to be a decent return man, Randel El is not that person. Sepulveda had a really nice day punting, averaging 50 yards a punt. Reed had a really nice game in the FG department until his missed a 40 yard FG that would’ve, in all likelihood, been the game winner. Reed also had a touchback, which is amazing. I think the last time that happened was in 2004.

Overall, this game felt like the 2009 season never ended, just continued into 2010. The Steelers get the win but it easily could’ve been a loss, even though the Falcons are a clearly inferior opponent. That’s a concern. Arians scripted plays worked for a FG on the opening drive. After that it was a predictable affair from Arians with run plays on virtually every first down (and on most 2nd downs as well). I understand that Dixon is inexperienced but this is his third year as a pro, if the coaches feel like they need to be that predictable and conservative against a mediocre defense with him at QB, isn’t it time to find another QB? Keep in mind that the Steelers had scored a grand total of 6 points in regulation against a mediocre defense after the opening drive.

Lebeau’s defense seemed really amped up for this game. I have no complaints about Lebeau’s defense in this game except for the constant 10 yard cushions that allowed the Falcons to move the ball in the 2nd half on a number of drives, luckily most didn’t end in points. But it did bring back some shades from last year with the 4th quarter meltdowns.

Tomlin continued to show his questionable judgment with in-game decisions. His timeout with 2:05 left in the game made absolutely no sense. The Steelers were at their 39 yard line and only need a FG to win it. Why call a TO in that situation? It would just give the Falcons more time if the Steelers have to punt, which is precisely what happened. Luckily, Troy showed off why he’s the best safety in the game and bailed out Tomlin’s poor decision with an INT on the Falcon’s ensuing drive. It could be argued that Tomlin and Arians took an overly safe approach with Dixon and the offense in this game and by doing so put a ton of pressure on the Steeler defense to keep the score very low. It could also be argued that this game was much closer than it should’ve been. Overall, Tomlin and the coaching staff will have to do a better job in the ensuing weeks.

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