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Week 5 Game Recap: Atlanta Falcons 17, Pittsburgh Steelers 41


What you need to know

Atlanta Falcons

Pittsburgh built an early lead and Atlanta was not equipped to chase down the Steelers. Atlanta’s safeties and linebackers gave up big passing lanes and missed tackles to help the Steelers take an early lead on the back of James Conner’s running and receiving and the seam work of JuJu Smith-Schuster. Tevin Coleman (two) and Devonta Freeman (one) gave up three sacks and the Steelers seemed prepared to overwhelm the diagnostic skills of the running backs by blitzing them while carrying out play action or delaying their blitz until they’ve committed to help a teammate. One of those sacks occurred in the red zone and limited Atlanta to a field goal. The Falcons gave up six-sacks this weekend, including a sack-fumble in the red zone for a touchdown that sealed the game. The Steelers also did enough to force Ryan away from Julio Jones, who didn’t earn his first catch until the fourth quarter.

Pittsburgh Steelers

For the first time this season the Steelers were able to start a game fast and scored on the opening drive of the game. Until the third quarter the game was within three points until Ben Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown on a nine-yard pass for a touchdown. After Brown's TD reception the Steelers were easily moving the ball on the Falcons and the Steelers pass-rushers could pin their ears back and get after Matt Ryan. Overall, Week 5 was a complete team win for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The offense was balanced (apart from the second quarter), the defense came up big and put consistent pressure on Matt Ryan, and the Special Teams unit put the Steelers in good field position or blocking a punt.

Atlanta Falcons

QB Matt Ryan, 64 offensive snaps, Pass: 26 - 38 - 285 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 10 - 0
After a few short passes, Ryan took a sack when a linebacker and defensive back overloaded the left side of the line on third down near midfield and left Tevin Coleman overwhelmed. This forced an Atlanta punt in lieu of 56-yard field goal attempt. The Steelers blitzed again and Coleman was late coming off play action and forced Ryan into the pocket for a second sack in the first half. Ryan’s greatest success came when he could exploit the middle of the Steelers’ defense with Austin Hooper and Mohamed Sanu. He found Sanu up the seam for a 43-yard touchdown; Sanu earning most of the yardage after the catch. T.J. Watt sacked Ryan a third down; this time in the red zone and then a fourth time during the same drive to force a 47-yard field goal attempt. Ryan took sack from J.T. Watt deep in Atlanta’s territory that put the game away 41-17 when Ryan fumbled the ball in to the end zone and Pittsburgh recovered.

RB Devonta Freeman, 28 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 32 - 0, Rec: 2 - 9 - 0 (2 targets)
Earning his first start after missing three games with an bone bruise, Freeman earned four yards off left end and then carried T.J. Watt on his back for another four on the following play. Freeman was slow to transition from carrying out a play fake to attacking a defensive end in the red zone on a play-action pass that resulted in a third sack.

RB Tevin Coleman, 27 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 15 - 0, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 (2 targets)
He earned a quick four yards on a short-yardage run on third down to open the second quarter. Coleman failed in two blitz situations during the first half that resulted in a pair of sacks. Coleman’s runs did not earn significant gains beyond the line of scrimmage during the first three quarters. There was always one unblocked man making a tackle early.

RB Ito Smith, 12 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 5 - 1, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (1 targets)
He earned a short-yardage carry during the first quarter with Mohamad Sanu as the shotgun quarterback. Smith earned a touchdown on a quick cutback up the middle from the Atlanta two on a fourth-quarter drive.

WR Julio Jones, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 62 - 0 (9 targets)
His only target during the first quarter and a half was a short in-cut thrown behind Jones and he couldn’t catch the ball that bounced off his hands as he turned into the target. Ryan was behind Jones on a crossing route two plays later on third down but an illegal use of hands by the defense led to an automatic first down. He didn’t earn a catch on four targets through three quarters of this game. Jones earned consecutive catches after the Steelers padded its lead to 34-17 in the middle of the fourth quarter.

WR Mohamed Sanu, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 73 - 1 (7 targets)
He earned a first down on a receiver screen early in the second quarter to get Atlanta near midfield. Sanu earned a 43-yard touchdown as the inside trips receiver running through an open seam and beating the safety’s angle for a huge gain. Sanu broke a tackle on a catch up the flat and backed his way inside the Steelers five.

WR Calvin Ridley, 47 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 38 - 0 (5 targets)
He earned an easy slant as the inside trips receiver on third down on the same side of the field as Freeman and Austin Hooper, who rubbed ahead for Ridley to work underneath. Ridley earned a first down on a shallow crossing route on third and short against a wide open zone to get Atlanta inside the Pittsburgh 15. Ridley earned an intermediate cross against a wide-open zone to end the third quarter. Jones’ first catch came from the slot on a crossing route and scramble drill during the fourth quarter for 18 yards and position inside the red zone. Ridley and Ryan had a miscommunication with reading deep coverage on a double move late in the game and Ryan threw the ball deeper than Ridley’s break, nearly resulting in an interception.

TE Austin Hooper, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 77 - 0 (12 targets)
Hooper earned a pair of receptions during the first drive, including a hook from the slot for 14 yards against the Steelers’ zone on third down. Hooper earned five yards on a tight end screen up the middle as Atlanta crossed midfield. Hooper earned a first down over the middle settling inside the Steeler’s zone on 3rd and 10 early in the second quarter. Hooper earned eight catches in the middle of the field during the first half but yardage and targets were more of an extension of the ground game.


Pittsburgh Steelers

QB Ben Roethlisberger, 60 offensive snaps, Pass: 19 - 29 - 250 - 3 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 16 - 0
This is Roethlisberger's lowest attempt game of the season and you could see the lower attempts came from a combination of hitting on longer pass plays and having balance to the offense. Early on Roethlisberger relied on James Conner to be the team's offense. Bringing the defense closer to the line of scrimmage. As soon as the Falcons defense crept up Roethlisberger was able to attack deep. Roethlisberger allowed JuJu Smith-Schuster to make a high-point play for a touchdown early and Ben's best pass of the season to Antonio Brown came off of a nine route where Ben hit Brown in stride for a touchdown. Overall, Roethlisberger was able to hit on two of five attempts traveling 20+ yards for two touchdowns. This is exactly the type of efficient downfield game we are used to from Ben Roethlisberger and hopefully the WiFi connection between him and Brown is fixed.

RB James Conner, 45 offensive snaps, Rush: 21 - 110 - 2, Rec: 4 - 75 - 0 (4 targets)
FINALLY, James Conner's full tool kit was being utilized for the first time since Week 1. Conner came out on the first possession of the game for the Steelers touching the ball six out of seven times (five rushes and one reception) and totaled 72 yards and a touchdown. This was on the first possession alone. James Conner was showing patience between the tackles, an ability to get to the outside Le'Veon Bell may not even still possess, broke tackles consistently (12 broken tackles), and the ability to not only absorb contact to stay on his feet but also deliver blows to defenders. From the late third quarter on James Conner was getting easier runs due to his punishing style wearing down the Falcons in the first half. Like Week 1 late in the second half James Conner fumbled the ball at a crucial point in the game. Fortunately, this time Conner did not lose the fumble and the ball went out of bounds.

WR Antonio Brown, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 101 - 2 (13 targets)
The connection between Ben Roethlisberger and Brown started slow this week. Early in the game Roethlisberger escaped the pocket and threw off his back foot to Brown and it resulted in an interception. This result equals four of Ben's six interceptions coming from targets to Antonio Brown this season. Ben also missed Antonio Brown on a crossing route in second quarter which would have lead to a big gain after the catch and another almost interception where a defender had underneath position on Brown. Things course corrected for Brown and Ben in the third quarter. Brown exploded for two touchdowns. One was a route by Antonio Brown he had ran the exact same route twice against his defender and the second time was the charm. The second touchdown came on a deep throw from Roethlisberger where Brown was released, and the defender couldn't flip his hips and keep up downfield. By the time the over-the-top safety could come over to assist, Brown was off to the races.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 34 - 1 (4 targets)
Relatively quiet game for JuJu today. In fact, all four of JuJu's targets came in the first half of the game and before a false start penalty. Luckily JuJu was efficient and did his damage early by catching an early high-pointing touchdown between two defenders.