Sunday’s 41-17 home win over the Atlanta Falcons was huge for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tomlin and Roethlisberger passed Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw for most all-time wins as a Head Coach-QB Tandem in Steelers history. They also looked confident and relevant again.
Roethlisberger looked like he was back to normal. 19 for 29, 250 yards and 3 touchdowns. He mixed it up as well, Antonio Brown had 6 receptions for 101 yards and JuJu Smith-Schuster had 4. The tight ends were busy too. Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, and Vance McDonald had a combined 4 receptions for 35 yards. The player who stole the show was James Conner.
Conner showed promise. He had 21 carries for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also had 4 receptions for 75 yards. If Conner can play like that consistently, the Steelers will have a pretty good reason to let Le'Veon Bell go.
Offensively the Steelers were 4 for 5 in the red zone and were 9 for 12 on 3rd down. The offense seemed to have figured it out and meshed much better. What I loved to see was how fired up Ben Roethlisberger was throughout the game. His confidence was much higher than it has been all year. He seemed to have pull the team out from the darkness and into the light.
Defensively, the Steelers improved. They had 6 sacks and T.J. Watt led the team with 3. They had 1 sack fumble that went into the end zone for a defensive touchdown. They also held Doug Freeman to only 32 yards rushing. Julio Jones tipped his cap to the Steelers secondary as well. He mentioned in a post-game interview, “They had a good game plan for me..." A "good game," comment from an NFL star is a compliment in itself and really shows how well the defense played. The Steelers are still giving up an average of over 400 yards per game. This may have been the game the Steelers needed defensively to get over that atrocious amount of yardage.
With the Ravens loss, the Steelers are still at the bottom of the AFC North. It is a blessing in disguise however. The Ravens lost to a tough Browns team that should be 4-1 this year. The Browns play tough, but they are beatable. Any loss the Ravens or Bengals have is a positive this year. The AFC North wasn't supposed to be tough this year, I think it is safe to say the experts were wrong. The AFC North is always tough. Even if the team leading the division is at 13-3, the Bengals and Ravens will always play you tough till the end.
The Bengals have a slight advantage over the Steelers next week. According to ESPN.com, they are favored by 52.9%. Although the Bengals are slightly favored and stand alone atop the AFC North, defensively they are not a stellar group. They allow 26 points and 408 yards (118 yards on the ground) per game. A positive sign for "Who Dey," is they give up under 300 yards passing per game. The Steelers strong game offensively is undoubtedly their passing game, this might be a challenge for Ben and company.
Overall, the Steelers fixed a lot of problems in this game. The Falcons aren’t great defensively and they have weapons offensively, but the Steelers scoring 41 points as a whole is a great sign of change. Could it be a fluke or are they fixed and back to being the scary Steelers again? I guess we will see next week when they play the Cincinnati Bengals.