The Steelers have a 13-10 lead to enter the second half, but they are keeping it close. They had an opportunity to go up by more at the end of the second quarter, but Ben Roethlisberger threw into triple coverage to Antonio Brown, the pass intercepted. JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner have the Steelers’ scores, with a Chris Boswell miss sprinkled in. Mohamed Sanu has the Falcons’ score from 40-plus.
T.J. Watt leads the defense with two sacks, Cameron Heyward and L.J. Fort each adding one themselves.
The Falcons opened the second half with possession at the 25 following a touchback on the kickoff. Devontae Freeman was tackled by Watt after a short gain off the right side. A short pass to Freeman gained just a yard, well-covered at the line. Now third and long, the rush left Matt Ryan free, scrambling for the first down and more. Heyward came around on a loop.
Form the 37, Javon Hargrave and Anthony Chickillo strung Freeman out wide for a loss of yardage. On second and 13, Mike Hilton nearly batted a screen pass down on a blitz, but it was caught by Sanu for a short gain. Now third and long, Terrell Edmunds made the third-down play, a crosser catch by Tevin Coleman for eight yards, forcing a punt. Ryan Switzer called for a fair catch at the 14.
Conner was good for close to five yards on first down, picking up the first on a seven-yard run second down. Then Roethlisberger connected with Conner on a 28-yard gain on third down following a no-gain by Stevan Ridley and a short reception by Smith-Schuster.
Ridley back in picked up a few yards down to the 23-yard line. Xavier Grimble caught his first pass of the season for the first down into the red zone. At the 14, Roethlisberger tossed one up to Brown, incomplete, on a back shoulder against a rookie cornerback. On second down, Conner was fortunate for a fumble to go out of bounds, given five yards. On third and five, Roethlisberger and Brown this time did connect, for their fourth touchdown of the year, the Steelers going up 20-10. He got a little extra room to work to the sideline coming out of the slot.
Ryan was off-target to Sanu on first down on the following possession. Coleman was tackled after a short gain to set up a third and long. He overthrew Jones on third down, who was double covered. The punt was blocked by Roosevelt Nix, which is seemingly always a threat for him. The punt recovered the football, but was tackled well short of the first.
So the offense took over at the Falcons’ 18, Roethlisberger tossing to Jesse James off play action for about 14 to set up first and goal at the four. Conner could only get back to the lien of scrimmage, but the Falcons were flagged for unnecessary roughness on the tackle, giving the Steelers first and goal from the two. Conner then notched his second score of the day, rushing inside the right pylon behind Nix, who didn’t see any snaps on offense last week except for the victory formation.
Ryan was sacked for the fifth time of the game on the opening play of their ensuing possession, but Jon Bostic was flagged for unnnecessary roughness for coming in late, after the sack. That’s his second dumb late penalty of the year. Dupree was flagged for illegal hands to the face on the next play. Ryan then his Calvin Ridley for a 21-yard gain.
To start the fourth quarter, from the Steelers’ 40, Ridley was held to just two. Following a carry, it was third and five. He looked to scramble first but then found Julio Jones for his first catch of the game.
Inside the 20, Ryan found Sanu again into the five. Heyward stayed on one knee after the play. Smith punched it in one play later to make it 27-17.
Brown picked up a 15-yard catch and run and then Conner went over 100 yards on the ground with a six-yard gain. He added three yards on second down, setting up third and one. He took a wide pitch left for the first down. Then with a strong wifi connection, Brown burned Robert Alford down the field for a long 47-yard touchdown, his fifth touchdown of the game and his first 100-yard game of the season.
Now with a 34-17 lead, the defense and offense have about 10 minutes to close. Ryan went to Jones for receptions on back-to-back plays to start the drive. After two incompletions, and a 12 men penalty on the Falcons, it was third and 15. Joe Haden made a good open-field tackle on Jones to force a fourth and nine. On the play, Ryan floated a pass over everybody to result in a turnover on downs.
An eight-yard run by Conner was negated by a hold on Pouncey. On first and 20, he caught a pass for about 10 yards. Now second and 10, Ryan Switzer got his first catch of the game for about five. Roethlisberger escaped pressure and scrambled for the first down as the click ticked below six minutes remaining. Roethlisberger overthrew James Washington on third and 10 three plays later. The rookie was also flagged for offensive pass interference, so it wouldn’t have been good anyway. He has been held without a catch today.
Berry’s first punt of the second half, third of the game, bounced straight up at the two, downed by Brian Allen there. Backed up to his own two, under pressure in the end zone, Ryan heaved a deep ball near no Falcons, Artie Burns credited with picking off the pass initially, but he ended up dropping it. They got away from their own end zone, but then Watt got his third sack of the game, a strip sack that was recovered in the end zone for a defensive touchdown.
With 3:35 remaining, Watt buried the back for no gain on first down, checking out after the play for a breather. After an eight-yard completion, Matt Schaub now in overthrew the ball. On fourth and two, he did complete to Austin Hooper to convert, down to the two-minute warning. What followed as an incompletion, a short gain, a batted pass, and finally, on fourth down, a short gain that resulted in a turnover on downs.
Joshua Dobbs checked into the game for the first first snap of his NFL career, even if it was just to take two knees, the Steelers sealing a 41-17 victory.