The Steelers beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-16 in their 3rd preseason game of the 2011 season Saturday night at Heinz Field. The game got off to a fast start as Antonio Brown returned the opening kick-off 51 yards to mid-field. The Falcons were penalized for a horse collar tackle on the play so the Steelers started their first possession on the Falcons 35-yard line. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit tight end David Johnson on the first two plays for 17 yards each to set the Steelers up at first and goal on the Falcons 1-yard line and Rashard Mendenhall punched it in on the next play.
Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons intercepted a Matt Ryan pass on the Falcons second offensive possession to set the Steelers offense up on the 4-yard line. The Steelers went three and out and had to settle for a Shaun Suisham field goal to take a 10-0 lead. The Falcons answered with a 12 play, 75 yard drive using a no huddle offense that ended with a Matt Bryant field goal.
After the Falcons tied the game with a Ryan to Roddy White touchdown, the Steelers answered back with a 3 play, 81 yard drive after Roethlisberger hit Brown with a deep pass in the middle of the field that Brown took to the house to give the Steelers a 17-10 lead. Roethlisberger hit Brown again on the Steelers next drive for a 44-yard touchdown pass.
On the night, Roethlisberger was 11 of 16 passing for 214 yards and two touchdowns. Brown had 4 catches for 137 yards and the 2 touchdowns. The Steelers did not run the ball well in the first half, but ended up with 96 yards on 28 carries for the game.
Defensively the Steelers bent, but did not break for the most part outside of the one touchdown. The defensive was able to get pretty good pressure during the night on the Falcons quarterbacks. The secondary did not challenge passes as much as you would like them to, but did a good job at not giving up the big play. Ryan and Chris Redman combined to go 30 of 60 passing for 309 yards. Crezdon Butler intercepted a Redman pass deep in Steelers territory in the second half and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown. Butler missed the game last week against the Eagles, but looked recovered from his quad injury on the return and had a nice night.
The Steelers suffered several injuries in the game as center Maurkice Pouncey aggravated his left ankle injury. It was the same ankle that Pouncey injured against the Jets in the AFC Championship game that prevented him from playing in the Super Bowl. He was limping after the game and had his seen with his ankle taped as he walked out of locker room. Mike Tomlin did not think the injury was serious. Also injured were cornerback Keenan Lewis (left knee), nose tackle Casey Hampton (right arm), tight end Miguel Chavis (torn left pectoral muscle) and back-up quarterback Byron Leftwich (broken left arm). The Leftwich and Chavis injuries are serious and Leftwich could be placed on injured reserve. Hampton had his right elbow wrapped up in locker room following the game and he likely will sit next week against the Panthers. Lewis was limping after the game, but was not on crutches. Tomlin said he would be re-evaluated on Sunday, but did not sound like the injury was serious.
Rookie Marcus Gilbert got the start at left tackle with Jonathan Scott sidelined and it looked like he played well on the surface. Gilbert moved to right tackle after his stint on the left side. Tony Hills also looked fine at right guard, but Chris Scott struggled again when he replaced Hills. I will have to look at all three more closely in my offensive line breakdown coming on Sunday.
Right outside linebacker James Harrison did not seem to have his burst tonight and that back might still be bothering him pretty good. Jason Worilds replaced him and had perhaps his best game of the preseason. Timmons and Larry Foote also had great games. The cornerback play was average, but they seemed to tackle good once again and did not allow too many big plays. The secondary also yielded just the one touchdown on the night and and the defense recorded 3 total turnovers.
More coming later after I go back through the tape.