While the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary may well have a tough time contending with the passing offense of the Atlanta Falcons with quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White, it’s also true that the Falcons will have the same issues with the Steelers’ passing offense.
The Falcons rank fifth in the league in averaging 284.3 yards through the air per game. The Steelers, however, rank second at 303.2 yards per game. And with Pittsburgh’s defense may rank 23rd in allowing 248.5 yards through the air on a game to game basis, the Falcons rank dead last in the league, giving up 287.8 yards per game.
While they have a top-five passing offense, their defense actually gives up even more than their offense can get back.
With the exception of 2013 first-round draft pick Desmond Trufant, who has allowed two touchdowns on the year, but picked off two passes, nobody in the Falcons’ secondary has played particularly well this season. That, of course, goes without saying when they give up more yards than anybody.
Yet, bizarrely, the Falcons actually rank toward the bottom of the league, surrendering only 18 touchdowns through the air on the season. The Steelers have given up the fourth-most touchdowns via the passing game with 26, which was not helped by Drew Brees’ five-touchdown effort two games ago.
They also counter that with 14 interceptions on the year, while the Steelers have only had eight thus far, with none in the past two weeks. The reason they give up so many yards through the air is because they don’t generate enough pressure. Even the Steelers’ 24 sacks blows the doors off the 15 that Atlanta has mustered in 13 games.
Defenses are able the get vertical on the Falcons, giving up 47 plays of 20 yards or more and 13 plays of 40 yards or more, but the same can be said for the Steelers. Pittsburgh has given up only one less play of 20 yards or more on the season.
But the Falcons defense has been unable to stop the run when it matters most. While they only rank 21st in rushing yards allowed per game, nobody has given up the 17 rushing touchdowns that Atlanta has. In contrast, only nine rushing touchdowns have come against the Steelers.
Le’Veon Bell may only have five rushing touchdowns on the season, but he has four in the last three games. This certainly sounds like a golden opportunity for him to shine yet again, for the fourth straight week.
In fact, the offense as a whole should be in for a good day, both on the ground and through the air, assuming they can keep the ball in their possession. They won the turnover battle 2 to 0 in the last game, but they’ve lost that skirmish too often this year, and the Falcons have one of the better turnover margins in the league.