NFL Wire News

Week 15 Preview: Steelers at Falcons


Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) at Atlanta Falcons (5-8)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Georgia Dome, Atlanta – TV: CBS

*TV announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Evan Washburn

*Keys to the game: The Steelers enter with the league’s second-ranked offense and second-ranked passing attack. The Falcons are dead last in total and passing defense.

Fret not, Atlanta fans. Your offense is fifth in passing yards, while the Steelers’ pass defense is ranked 23rd in the league and has surrendered five receptions for 50-plus yards – five in the past four games.

You get the picture.

Key to the outcome could be the availability of Falcons WR Julio Jones, he of 21 catches for 448 yards and two touchdowns over the past two weeks. He left last week’s game with a hip injury that leaves his status in doubt and with Roddy White (ankle) at less than 100 percent, QB Matt Ryan might not have all of his weapons at his disposal to go toe to toe with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. Atlanta has averaged 27 rushes over its past six games, and must stay committed to that effort to help protect the defense.

As poor as the Falcons’ pass defense has been, Atlanta does have a plus-five turnover margin and the Steelers have stubbed their toe against losing teams regularly this season, losing to Tampa Bay and the Jets and narrowly escaping Jacksonville and Tennessee – all four-win teams.

*Matchup to watch – Steelers WR Martavis Bryant vs. Falcons CB Robert McClain: Bryant is only the fourth player in NFL history with seven TD catches in his first seven career games. The last was Max McGee in 1954. …

*Player spotlight – Steelers SS Troy Polamalu: He has lost a step at 33, but will still be active in attacking the line of scrimmage and can be a difference-maker. But if Ryan can catch him out of position, as happened to Polamalu last week, big plays are there to be had.

*Fast facts: Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell needs to average 153 yards over the final three games to tie Barry Foster’s (1,690) single-season team rushing record. … The Falcons’ offensive line will feature the same starting lineup for the seventh straight game.


Pepto Bismol has likely been in short supply during defensive meetings leading up to this game. It will be a track meet inside the dome, with a slight edge to the visiting Steelers due to the versatile threat Bell brings to the equation.

*Our pick: Steelers 41-34

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