While the Pittsburgh Steelers initially struggled in the red zone, they came away with field goals on their first two drives. William Gay opened the second quarter with a pick six off Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, which was his third interception return for a touchdown of the season, but Ryan came back to throw a touchdown pass to Devin Hester. The Steelers offense finished off the half with a one-yard touchdown run by Le’Veon Bell, his fifth rushing touchdown in the last four games, to take a 20-7 lead into halftime, after which the Falcons receive the ball.
Atlanta opened the half with a touchback. Ryan connected with Hester on a well-designed screen for a huge gain on the first play of the third quarter for 46 yards. From the 34, Ryan found Harry Douglas for 16 yards inside the 20. Troy Polamalu made the tackle in the backfield but limped off the field. There was an offensive hold on the play. On second down, Roddy White fumbled, but it was recovered by Atlanta. On third and eight, Lawrence Timmons stopped Douglas short of the first down. A field goal made it a 20-10 game.
On first down, Bell pushed ahead for 10 yards on the ground, his longest run of the day. He was stopped near the line of scrimmage on the following play. Antonio Brown picked up eight yards on a quick pass, but penalties on the offense set up third and 17. Ben Roethlisberger‘s deep target to Martavis Bryant held up in the air short as he was hit.
After a short gain on the ground, the Steelers disrupted a screen pass to set up third and seven. The completion was made to Douglas over Antwon Blake to keep the drive going. Stephen Jackson ripped off a run that sent Mike Mitchell to the sideline. Ryan scrambled and slid inside the 30-yard line. Hester was thrown to underneath for seven yards. On second and three, Cameron Heyward batted down Ryan’s pass. White picked up the first down to about the 11-yard line.
On first down, Hester caught the right sideline on a screen pass, picking up nine yards. Heyward tackled Jackson for a loss in the backfield. On third down, Ryan overthrew Hester open in the end zone, but there would have been an offensive pass interference on the play anyway. The Falcons did make it a one-possession game with another field goal to make it 20-13.
Bell was thrown for a six-yard loss on first down as the Falcons line has done a good job against the run. Roethlisberger dropped back and fired down the field to Brown for 15 to make it third and one. Bell got the ball in short yardage and converted to keep the drive going. The line gave him time on the next play and he found Heath Miller open for 26 yards across midfield to end the third quarter.
From the 43, Roethlisberger came off play action to find Wheaton open down the field for an explosive play to enter field goal range, down to the 13. The Steelers pulled out the counter left and it finally worked, as Bell found the sideline for the 13-yard score, giving the team a 27-13 lead.
Heyward nearly sacked Ryan on first down, but he got the ball out for an incompletion. A seven-yard carry made it third and three. Ryan scrambled for 12 yards on the play. A blitz forced a throw away on first down, but he found Douglas to move the chains on the following play.
From the 48, Jackson was bottled up at the line of scrimmage for no gain. Douglas got free on a screen pass for a big gain to the 11 for a 41-yard gain. The Steelers have been hurt on the screen passes all game long. Gay provided the hit to break up the first down pass. Jackson picked up six yards on second down. Ryan found White for the score to make it 27-20 with over 10 minutes remaining.
Brown took a short pass for a first down on the first play. Bryant caught a pass for four on the next play. The counter run was blown up on second down. Roethlisberger found Wheaton crossing the field on the move to get the first down, keeping the Falcons from seizing momentum with a defensive stop and keeping the clock ticking.
Bell was lucky to pick up close to two yards on first down. On third and nine, Lance Moore stretched out for a deep attempt, but it was out of his reach, as the Steelers punted with the Falcons having a chance to tie the game.
Ryan’s first down pass was incomplete. On second and 10, Gay held a short pass to Douglas for minimal gain to set up third and six. The Steelers only rushed four and Vince Williams made the stop short of the first down, forcing Atlanta to punt.
On first down, Bell pushed ahead for a few yards as the clock dipped under four minutes. Atlanta was flagged on third down, giving the Steelers a free first. After a short gain on the ground, the Falcons used their first timeout. On second and eight, with five wide, Roethlisberger found Brown for 12 yards. Bell spun and fought his way for about four yards on first down as the Falcons used their final timeout with 2:44 to play.
Bell added five yards through the air on second down as the clock drained down to the two minute warning with a big third and one looming on the other side. The Steelers used some misdirection to throw downfield to Miller for the completion, sealing the victory, all without a touchdown pass from Roethlisberger.