The Pittsburgh Steelers are on the road in Atlanta to take on the Falcons in an AFC-NFC matchup, their fourth of the season. The Steelers are 2-1 against the NFC this season, beating Tampa Bay and New Orleans already, and can clinch a winning record with a victory on Sunday.
KEY TO VICTORY: Stop Falcons Dynamic Run Game
The Steelers have certainly faced mobile quarterbacks before like Marcus Mariota. They have certainly faced powerful between-the-tackles runners like Tyler Allgeier. They’ve also faced wide receivers that can run the ball like Cordarelle Patterson.
But the combination of the three of them in one offense is something of a novelty that the Steelers only had a short week to prepare for. The job is simple in on sentence. Stop the run and you stop the Falcons. But it won’t be that easy because of the diversity of the Atlanta ground attack.
BOLD PREDICTION: Steven Sims Makes an Impact
There’s a lot of emphasis on Patterson’s abilities as a returner this week, especially after the Steelers were gashed by the Colts in that area. But Sims feels like he’s been on the cusp of a breakthrough for a few games in the return game on his own, and he could certainly answer a big play in that area by Atlanta.
OVERLOOKED MATCHUP: KhaDarel Hodge & Drake London vs. Levi Wallace & Cam Sutton
Last week, the Indianapolis Colts presented a problem with Michael Pittman as their primary passing threat, and the Steelers were largely able to minimize his impact. This week, KhaDarel Hodge and Drake London are more like the Philadelphia Eagles duo of A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith that gave the Steelers problems a few weeks ago. It will be up to Levi Wallace, Cam Sutton and maybe some of James Pierre to hold their coverage against the big and fast Falcons receivers well down the field, as quarterback Marcus Mariota is more than capable of buying time to extend plays. The Falcons are a run-heavy offense, but they can take deep shots and the Steelers secondary has been hurt by big plays down field.
This won’t be easy, as the Steelers are on the road on a short week, which is never a good situation, and face a better than they look Falcons squad. But the offensive trajectory seems to be headed in the right direction, and the Steelers have been so good as stopping the run this year, that they should be able to solve the Falcons’ three-headed attack, even if that might take a while.
Steelers 20, Falcons 17
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Pittsburgh -1 (-114)
Under 42.5 (-118)
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Last week: 2-1: W Pittsburgh +2.5, Under 39.5; L Jonathan Taylor under 85.5 rushing yards