Sat, 04 Feb 2023

Cheat Sheet: Steelers at Falcons

The Steelers
03 Dec 2022, 05:30 GMT+10

Matt Williamson

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN

TV coverage: Broadcast nationally on CBS, (KDKA-TV locally in Pittsburgh).Steelers Radio Network - Game coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. ET; Pregame programming begins at 9:00 a.m.; Postgame coverage starts immediately following the game.Don't miss a minute of the action... check out all of the ways that you can watch, listen and follow along on gameday. Click here >>>

INJURY UPDATE

The Steelers are on the road again as they face the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Check out the most updated Injury Report: Click here >>>

Series History

This series began in 1966 with Pittsburgh winning the two meetings that took place in the '60s. The upcoming decades weren't any kinder to Atlanta, as the Steelers were 2-1 in the '70s, 3-0 in the '80s, and 4-0 in the '90s. In the 2000s, Pittsburgh is 3-1-1 against the Falcons, but the Steelers have won three in a row. Overall, the Steelers lead this series 14-2-1 and, of course, the Falcons and Pittsburgh have never met in the postseason. Mike Tomlin is 3-0 against the Falcons, which is one of four teams that he is yet to lose to as the Steelers head coach.

MATCHUP OVERVIEW

The Falcons are 4-2 at home against 1-5 on the road this year. They are two games below .500 but only a half game out of first place in the NFC South. Atlanta has lost three of its last four games. The Falcons have four losses in their last six games with the two wins coming over the Panthers and Bears, teams that have a combined record of 7-17.Atlanta's offense generates 5.5 yards per play and 5.4 over their past three games. The Steelers offense averages 4.8 yards per play and 4.9 over their most recent three games. The Steelers defense gives up 5.7 yards per play for the year, but just 5.1 over the past three while Atlanta surrenders 5.8 yards per play for the season and 4.9 over its last three.Pittsburgh is now plus-2 in turnover differential. Only seven teams are better. Atlanta is minus-1. The Steelers' 16 takeaways are seventh-best in the league. The Falcons have lost eight fumbles which is the fourth-most in the NFL. Atlanta's defense has 15 takeaways.In Kenny Pickett's last three games, the Steelers are plus-10 in point differential.The Falcons offense produces 315.3 yards per game, that ranks 27th in the NFL.Atlanta is averaging 100.3 fewer passing yards per game than its opponents, the largest negative differential in the league.The Steelers are up to eighth overall in time of possession at 30:44, but over their past three games Pittsburgh possesses the football for 33:54 on average. Atlanta's 28:51 is 28th and over their past three games, the Falcons have held the ball for just 25:49 on average.The Steelers are 4-0 when they score first.Nine of the Falcons' games this year have been one score games. That is the most of any team in the league. They are 4-5 in those games decided by one score or less.The opponents on Atlanta's remaining schedule have a winning percentage of just .421. Only three teams face an easier remaining schedule. The Ravens are the only team remaining on Atlanta's schedule that currently has a winning record. Baltimore is also the only team remaining on the Steelers schedule that currently has a winning record, though the Steelers play the Ravens twice.

WHEN PITTSBURGH HAS THE BALL

The only defenses that give up more yards per game than Atlanta are Detroit, Minnesota, Seattle and Houston. And only four teams give up more passing yards per contest.Last week was Kenny Pickett's third game this year with at least a 70 percent completion percentage. On passes of 10 yards downfield or less, Pickett is completing 83 percent of his throws, which is second best in the NFL.When throwing between the numbers on Monday night, Pickett completed four of five for 36 yards.The Steelers are averaging 5.1 yards per passing play. Atlanta is allowing 7.0 yards per passing play, which is 28th in the NFL. The Falcons are also 30th in the NFL in yardage allowed on throws over 10 yards downfield.Since week 10, Pickett's target distribution is as follows: Pat Freiermuth (23), Diontae Johnson (18), George Pickens (16), Najee Harris (8) and Steven Sims (7).The Steelers are one of five NFL teams with three or more players with 500 or more receiving yards.Freiermuth has been targeted on 23.7 percent of his routes run (fifth among NFL tight ends) and is averaging 1.74 yards per route run, which is sixth among tight ends. The Falcons allow 5.5 catches per game to opposing tight ends, which is 30th in the league.The Falcons didn't have a sack last week. They have just 17 for the season, better than only the Bears and Raiders. Last year, TJ Watt had more sacks than the entire Falcons defense.Last week, Benny Snell got his first 12 carries of the season. He made the most of those dozen rushes, totaling 62 yards and four first downs. He also averaged 2.7 yards after contact.Over the last four games, Pittsburgh has averaged 158.8 rushing yards per game.Atlanta gave up 176 rushing yards last week in a losing effort to the Commanders. The Falcons are last in the league in rate of running back runs that result in a first down or touchdown.The Falcons have played zero snaps of dime defense this year with six defensive backs on the field.The Falcons' opponents have scored on 44.3 percent of their drives, the highest rate in the league.

WHEN ATLANTA HAS THE BALL

On early downs, the Falcons throw the football on just 39.6 percent of their snaps, the lowest rate in the league. The Bears are the next lowest at 41.8 percent, but there aren't any other teams at 44.5 percent or lower. In contrast, the Chiefs throw the ball 66.3 percent of their early down snaps. This makes sense from Atlanta's perspective, as only the Eagles have a better EPA when running the ball on first and second downs. Overall, Atlanta calls a run play 56.3 percent of the time, the second-highest percentage in the league.Marcus Mariota is 17th in EPA. His average depth of target for the season sits at 10 yards downfield. However, the past two weeks, Mariota's ADOT was just 5.6 and 6.3 yards past the line of scrimmage. And over the past four weeks, Mariota is averaging just 6.3 yards per pass attempt, 27th in the league. He also averages just 171 passing yards per game, which is 33rd of 35 qualified quarterbacks.Chicago and Atlanta are the only offenses in the league that have yet to produce a 250-yard passing game.The Steelers have allowed just two tight ends to find the end zone this season.With tight end Kyle Pitts out of the lineup, Cordarrelle Patterson's route participation has spiked. Last week, he was out on a route on 62 percent of Mariota's drop backs with a massive 22 percent target share. For the season, those two numbers sit at 29 percent and 6 percent. Patterson's snaps and touches have increased in three-straight games.Olamide Zaccheaus also got a big spike last week seeing a massive 35 percent target share. His share for the season is just 15 percent. Zaccheaus led the team in targets, but Drake London led the Falcons in route share at 92 percent, but London now has a nine-game streak with 40 or fewer receiving yards.Atlanta is one of four teams that doesn't have a pass catcher with at least 500 receiving yards.Alex Highsmith now has 10 sacks in his 11 games this year. The only players in the league with more sacks are Matthew Judon, Micah Parsons, Nick Bosa and Maxx Crosby.The Steelers produce 3.4 sacks per game with Watt in the lineup, but just 1.5 when he is sidelined.The Falcons ran for 167 yards last week with three different ball carriers registering 49 or more rushing yards. Tyler Allgeier and Patterson led the way with 11 carries apiece with Mariota getting six carries.In terms of snap counts last week, the Falcons running backs were at 33 for Patterson and 22 for Tyler Allgeier.Mariota averages 35.1 rushing yards per game. That ranks sixth among NFL quarterbacks.The Falcons and Bills are the only teams in the league that have rushed for 90 or more yards in every game this season. Atlanta averages 160 rushing yards per game, which is fourth-most in the league. The Falcons are also the only team in the league with four different players that have 300 or more yards on the ground.Pittsburgh gives up just 4.0 yards per carry. The only defenses better are the Titans, Ravens, Colts, Rams and 49ers. Just five defenses allow fewer rushing yards per game than the Steelers.While Cameron Heyward played 69 percent of the total defensive snaps last week, he was on the field for 88 percent of the third and fourth down snaps.Devin Bush played 64 of 64 possible snaps last week. Myles Jack played 69 percent of the defensive snaps. No other off the ball linebacker saw the field in Indianapolis.In the four games this year with Watt, the Steelers have allowed 20, 10, 37, and now 17 points.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Patterson has just one kickoff return for a touchdown during his two seasons with the Falcons. However, in his other seven NFL seasons, Patterson racked up eight touchdowns when returning kickoffs. Those nine career kickoff returns makes Patterson the all-time record holder. He passed Josh Cribbs earlier two weeks ago against the Bears. After a 89 and 45-yard kickoff returns last week against the Steelers, the Colts are now the league leaders in this department - an honor that was previously held by Atlanta.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT

November 10th, 2002: Heinz Field, Steelers 34, Falcons 34 (OT)

The Steelers controlled this game from the start and took a 17-7 lead into halftime. Going into the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh actually led 31-17, but the Falcons scored 17 points in the fourth against just three by the Steelers to send this into a scoreless overtime. This was a classic battle between two very different quarterbacks, Tommy Maddox and Michael Vick, joined the Steelers late in his career. Maddox and Vick combined for 812 yards of total offense. On the final play of this classic game, Maddox fired up a Hail Mary that was caught by Plaxico Burress. But Burress was tackled just short of the end zone. Burress ended this game with 253 receiving yards in the first overtime game at Heinz Field.

THE ADVANCED SCOUT PODCAST

Check out Matt's podcast preview on the Falcons: Listen Here >>>

FACTS FROM NFL RESEARCH

The Steelers are 14-2-1 against the Falcons in their franchise history - ATL is 1 of 4 teams that Mike Tomlin is undefeated against (3-0) - Last time ATL beat PIT was Week 7, 2006 (PIT Hines Ward & ATL Alge Crumpler both had 3 rec TD in the game)

KEY MATCHUPS

Falcons WR Drake London vs. Steelers Cornerbacks - The Falcons are very much a run-first team, but with Pitts out of the lineup it is very clear that London is Atlanta's most frightening receiving option. London only caught two passes last week though for just 29 yards. London hasn't had more than 40 yards in a game since Week 3.Steelers Guards vs. Falcons DT Grady Jarrett - On most of his snaps, as he has during his eight-year career with Atlanta, Jarrett will align as the Falcons 3-Technique defensive tackle. That means he lines up on the outside shoulder of either guard and then explodes upfield. That fits Jarrett perfectly. A low-built player with terrific leverage and get-off, Jarrett often wins right off the snap. But he also shows excellent power and technique to win later in the down. He has 32 career sacks. Dealing with Jarrett should be quite challenging for James Daniels and Kevin Dotson.

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