The biggest news of the Steelers-Falcons preseason game was James Conner getting his first NFL game action and the return of Martavis Bryant. Both looked a little rusty early in the game but settled in to make some nice plays. Conner played into the fourth quarter and was able to run all over the Falcons third-team defense. Sammie Coates also returned and had a few catches over the middle. But today belonged to James Conner who looks faster than he did at Pitt and close to fully healthy after his recovery from cancer just 14 months ago.
With some of the Steel City Blitz crew descending on Pittsburgh for this game, Ian met up with Steel Dad and Steel Son for breakfast to start the day right.
Will's first Steelers game was a success! We even got to meet his favorite player, Antonio… https://t.co/c9PXDPj1qU
— Chris Garman (@Steel_By_Design) August 20, 2017
That was all significantly more exciting than what happened once the game actually started. The Steelers couldn’t do anything offensively and Matt Ryan drove the Falcons right down the field against the (mostly) first team defense.
The Steelers went 3-and-out again and Matt Schaub drove the Falcons down the field again against the Steelers (mostly) first team defense. Thanks to a third down drop in the end zone, the Falcons were held to 3.
The Steelers remembered they were allowed to throw the ball down the field and got a Pass Interference call on DHB then Martavis came up with a back-shoulder grab. Those two plays, plus a draw play to James Conner on third and long were enough to put us in field goal range.
The Falcons brought in their third quarterback named Matt (Simms, this time) and he did pretty much what the others did. Drove the Falcons right down the field against the (mostly) first team defense. It is worth noting the Steelers were playing mostly a shell zone and not really changing it up a whole lot. The defense did hold in the red zone and force a field goal. It was 13-3 at the half of a meaningless preseason game.
The teams traded punts to start the second half and it looked like it would be the normal preseason bore-fest until Trey Williams returned a punt for a touchdown.
In case you didn’t know, Trey Williams is a football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is listed under the “others” on the depth chart at running back and not mentioned on the returner depth chart. But he took one to the house and that’ll get you noticed.
After another Falcons punt, Josh Dobbs tried an ill-advised play on third down where he tried to throw a pass while falling to the ground. It was intercepted and everyone started groaning until Matt Simms threw one right to the Steelers defense on the very next play.
Sheriff Bart Houston came in to replace Josh Dobbs after that exchange. The Steelers offense continued to sputter and we got another exchange of punts. All of a sudden, after doing nothing for most of the day on offense, the Steelers found something that worked. James Conner running left. Conner ripped off two big runs over the left side to take us down inside the 5.
On first and goal Houston tried a low-percentage throw for the back pylon instead of throwing it to a wide open Sammie Coates at the goal line. Conner nearly finished the deal on second down but came up just short. After a delay of game penalty, Houston found Justin Hunter in the flat who used some nifty footwork to get around a defender and lunge across the goalline.
And just like that (after review upheld the touchdown), we were winning!
The third-string defense cranked it up a notch and recorded two sacks on the following series to give the offense a chance to close out the game with a 4-minute drive. Of course, nothing is ever easy, particularly in the preseason. After another solid run by Conner, rather than just running the ball and milking the clock, the Steelers tried a deep shot that fell incomplete. They wound up punting and giving the Falcons the ball back with well over 2 minutes and 2 timeouts.
Thankfully, the defense stepped up as Jordan Dangerfield came up with his second interception of the day.
The Steelers had the ball in the red zone with just over 2 minutes to play. They did the smart thing this time and handed it to James Conner 3 times, forcing the Falcons to use their remaining timeouts and hitting the 2-minute warning. Conner finished with 98 yards on the day, 68 of them coming in the fourth quarter. Coming out of the break, the smart thing to do with a 17-13 lead would be to kick a field goal and go up 7, but Tomlin sent out the offense. If this had been the regular season, I would’ve been absolutely livid about this decision, but it’s the preseason so…..
Bart Houston threw an interception on the 4th down play. The Falcons had to go 80 yards with no timeouts and their 4th string QB. His name is not Matt, by the way. They couldn’t get past their own 40 and turned it over on downs.
Victory Formation. Steelers win another meaningless preseason game.