It is finally here. We have waited so long for this day. Some of us have waited longer than others but last year left a very bad taste in the mouths of all of Steelers Nation and with the players themselves. The Steelers are without their top wideout from a year ago (Santonio Holmes) and a top three quarterback for four games (Ben Roethlisberger). Guys are back (Larry Foote, Antwann Randle El, Bryant McFadden) and everyone is focusing on other teams (Cincinnatti, Baltimore). The Steelers have an uphill battle this year but I think we all have the faith and we are sure as hell ready for the season to start. It's go time. (Not real sure what the Phillies part is all about in the title)
Before we get into what is big this week, lets look at the statistical breakdown of the game:
October 22, 2006
Atlanta 41, Pittsburgh 38 (OT)
Passing: Roethlisberger: 16/22, 238 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Parker: 20 car, 47 yards
Receiving: Ward: 8 rec, 171 yards, 3 TD
Passing: Vick: 18/30, 232 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Dunn: 26 car, 69 yards, TD
Receiving: Crumpler: 117 yards, 3 TD
Offense (rank in NFL)
Pittsburgh: 371.3 yards/game (7th)
Atlanta: 340.4 yards/game (14th)
Pittsburgh: 259.3 yards/game (9th)
Atlanta: 223.2 yards/game (14th)
Pittsburgh: 112.1 yards/game (19th)
Atlanta: 117.3 yards/game (15th)
Pittsburgh: 23 points/game (12th)
Atlanta: 22.7 points/game (13th)
Pittsburgh: 305.3 yards/game (5th)
Atlanta: 348.9 yards/game (21st)
Pittsburgh: 89.9 yards/game (3rd)
Atlanta: 106.8 yards/game (10th)
Pittsburgh: 215.4 yards/game (16th)
Atlanta: 242.1 yards/game (28th)
Pittsburgh: 20.3 points/game (t-12th)
Atlanta: 20.3 points/game (t-12th)
The rosters from the game above are pretty different huh? I would say so. The Steelers don't match up against the Falcons all too often so you really can't talk about too much history when these two teams together. Unless they are going to play in the Super Bowl these two teams typically match up once every four years.
This year's Falcons team is pretty good. Between Matt Ryan, Mike Turner and Roddy White they have a chance to put up some big points on the board and their defense is very good against the run, something that the Steelers will try to do a lot of on Sunday.
As everyone and their mother already chronicaled the Steelers will be without Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games of the season and Byron Leftwhich, the person that was supposed to take over for Ben, is down with an MCL injury. That leaves Mr. Dennis Dixon to take over for the Black and Gold. Earlier in the year everyone was screaming for DD to play because of his success (albeit in a loss) last season against Baltimore in an overtime loss. Now that BL is down some of those same people who begged for DD is now asking for Chuck Batch to get some PT. Lets not forget Chuck took like three snaps all preseason and missed all of last year and is a statue behind a suspect offensive line, but whatever. In the QB game the grass is always greener on the other side.
What does it mean that DD is back there? Rashard Mendenhall is going to have to be a huge factor. As Merril Hodge would say he needs to be a factor back on Sunday. The Steelers certainly aren't going to come out and have the pass set up the run like they would if Ben was in there so it is going to need to be the other way around. The line is going to have to dig deep and make some holes and give Rashard some room to run.
The line is going to be a huge factor in the passing game also. Might not be as big of a factor now that we have a mobile QB back there that can elude some of the pass rushing that will probably get there. The one thing we don't need is DD to have to worry about someone being in his face every time he takes a five step drop. Give him some time early, let him get comfortable and if he can get into a groove I think we will be alright.
The new look defense will be back on the field and lookin to reclaim some of that swag that they lost last season. It will basically look new with Bryant McFadden, Larry Foote, Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith back on the field either because the Steelers brought them in or they are coming back from season ending injuries. I know a lot of people have been talking about this defense getting better this year for the players I mentioned above but I really think this team is going to take a huge step forward this season. Last year they finished #5 in overall team defense but they just didn't have "it" last year and didn't finish games. I think that changes this year. If they can come out and get a few stop and smack around the Falcons a little bit then I think the Falcons will realize this defense is back.
The Falcons are going to be no slotch this week. I talked before about this team's offense and it is nothing to laugh at. Matt Ryan quietly put together a really good season last year throwing for over 2,900 yards and 24 touchdowns. Ryan is flanked by running back Mike Turner, who is small by stature but is one of the better backs in the leauge after racking up ten touchdowns last year.
The key is definatly going to be to stop the run and make that passing game beat us. When the Steelers defense is on, which I think it will be this year including tomorrow, they are very good at making teams one dimentional and when teams get to be on dimentional they are much easier to beat. If the defnese can stop the run they can let LaMarr Woodley and james Harrison pin their ears back and get after Matt Ryan and make his day very uncomfortable.
Limiting the mistakes is going to be huge too. If the Penn State game taught us anything last night is is that turning the ball over is going to kill you. Especially in the red zone. Limit the mistakes and I think the Steelrs should be right in this game the whole time. Turn the ball over and it makes it that much more tougher to win. Take the ball away and you are goign to have a much better chance to win. Should be a key point, as it always is.
Everyone has talked all preseason about what the Steelers are going to do or what they can do and what the expectations are with this team. It is time to put up or shut up. Everyone can talk all they wan, the game is decided on the field. I leave you with this Steelers Nation, hit it: