The Pittsburgh Steelers secured a big victory last week against the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals and find themselves in the driver’s seat in terms of their own destiny within the division. At 8-5 and a season finale against the Bengals remaining, if the Steelers continue to take care of their own business, they will secure a division championship for the first time since 2010.
The next obstacle on the path to the AFC North crown resides in Georgia, as the Steelers wrap up their road schedule against the Atlanta Falcons, who at 5-8 have certainly had better seasons in recent years. Whether or not they have Julio Jones for this game will certainly have an impact on how it unfolds.
In order to get by in this game, it’s likely that the offense will have to produce, and produce in bunches, which has been the case in many of the team’s victories this year. In a rare change of pace, the Steelers have one of the best offenses, averaging the sixth-most points per game despite their early struggles to score on the road, which finally seems to have been neutralized.
Still, the Steelers have found it difficult to get much on the board until late in the game on the road, particularly of late. They put up 25 of their 42 points in the last game in the fourth quarter, for example.
The game plan, then, should consist of a methodical, organized strategy to wear down their opponents so that they can be exploited late when or if the Steelers need those late points to get over the hump.
To do that, of course, Le’Veon Bell will be intimately involved. Following some of the least active games of his career, the second-year back has 80 rushes and 16 receptions over the last three weeks, averaging 32 touches per game. And he looks little worse for wear, as both he and the offensive line have done a good job of keeping him relatively clean and preventing him from taking many hard hits.
Also, don’t be surprised to see Dri Archer inactive again.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has gone through a rough patch in recent weeks, but seemed largely to come out of it against the Bengals, airing out three touchdown passes while showing better ball control and placement, keeping the football in his targets’ hands, rather than the defenders’.
He’ll need to play more like that against Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s aerial assault, and he’s had mixed results going up against some high-flying pass attacks this year. The line did a better job of keeping him upright in the last game, which goes a long way toward keeping him on his game.
Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant continue to serve limited roles in the offense since Bell has become a primary option in the receiving game. As seen last week, of course, Bryant at least has the game-breaking potential to make any given play a big one.