5 things you want to see vs. Pittsburgh?

 

110801 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud flys to block a ball in a simulated punt drill during the first padded practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011.     Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

110801 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud flys to block a ball in a simulated punt drill during the first padded practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH — What are the five things you want to see in the Falcons’ dress rehearsal against the Pittsburgh Steelers at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Heinz Field?

Here’s my list:

1. How do defensive end Ray Edwards and John Abraham look playing together?

2. Can they spring running back Michael Turner against the defense that was ranked No. 1 in the league against the run?

3. How will they get Roddy White involved in the offense?

4. How will cornerback Dominique Franks perform in his second start?falcons.0802

5.  How will they get tight end Tony Gonzalez involved in the passing game?

Feel free to leave us the 5 things you would like to see.  

Here’s the story on how the Falcons used their regular-season trip to Pittsburgh last season as a spring board into the 2010 season:

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons’ trip to Heinz Field to open the 2010 season was fruitful.

After standing up to the rugged Pittsburgh Steelers in a hard-fought 15-9 overtime loss, the Falcons went on to win 12 of their next 13 games on their way to the NFC South championship.

The Falcons hope their meeting with the Steelers in the key third exhibition game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, which will serve as their dress rehearsal for the 2011 season, can propel them on a similar run to start the new season.

“We have an opportunity here to go against a great defense,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said. “It’s a good chance to see how we stack up.”

The Falcons’ first-team units have sparkled in the two exhibition games. The starters built a 17-0 lead against Miami and helped forge a 13-3 margin against

Falcons coach Mike Smith and owner Arthur Blank will be watching this one closely.

Falcons coach Mike Smith and owner Arthur Blank will be watching this one closely.

Jacksonville.

Last season against the Steelers, the offense managed only three field goals from kicker Matt Bryant. Running back Michael Turner was held to 42 yards on 19 carries, and Gonzalez caught two passes for 35 yards. All-Pro wide receiver Roddy White caught 13 passes for 111 yards.

Saturday is the Steelers’ tune-up game, too, and the defending AFC champions want to toss their A-game on the field. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan would like to see the Falcons’ running game get rolling against the Steelers, who had the No. 1-ranked run defense (62.8 yards per game) last season.

“Pittsburgh is certainly notorious for being stout against the run,” Ryan said. “They’ve got some talented guys in that front seven. Again, in the preseason, it really is nice to have a good physical test like this. It’s going to get us right for when we gear up and go in September.”

The Falcons believe they are taking more offensive firepower to Pittsburgh this time. They added wide receiver Julio Jones in a big draft-day trade with the hope of adding more long-gainers to the attack.

110812 Atlanta - Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throws a pass to Julio Jones during 1st quarter action at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, August 12, 2011.      Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

110812 Atlanta - Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throws a pass to Julio Jones during 1st quarter action at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Friday, August 12, 2011. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

While the brief outings against Miami and Jacksonville were solid, the Falcons know that the Steelers’ 3-4 defense and their wily defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau can slow their operation.

“It can only help us,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a real positive for us from the way I’m looking at it. As long as we respond to it and go out there and play the way we are capable of playing.”

Gonzalez believes the Falcons will be up to the test.

“We are a good team,” Gonzalez said. “We were good on offense last year. We are going to do the same things that we did last year and add to it.”

The defense is expected to receive a stiff test, too.

In last season’s opener, Pittsburgh played without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy.

Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens has a hamstring injury and will be a game-time decision. Here, he looks for the interception during a coordination drill while players run through the first padded practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011.     Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons cornerback Christopher Owens has a hamstring injury and will be a game-time decision. Here, he looks for the interception during a coordination drill while players run through the first padded practice at training camp in Flowery Branch on Monday, August 1, 2011. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

But he’s set to play in this exhibition game. The Falcons’ revamped pass rush, which will feature prized free-agent signee Ray Edwards and All-Pro defensive end John Abraham together for the first time, will get tested.

Roethlisberger is noted for shaking off tacklers and scrambling before launching deep and accurate passes.

But center Todd McClure cautions against stacking too many chips on what happens during the third exhibition game.

“You’re preparing like it’s a regular-season game,” McClure said. “But if you go out and you have a lot of success, or you have not too much success, you don’t put too much weight on it. It’s still the preseason.”

The Falcons host the Baltimore Ravens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Georgia Dome in their exhibition-season finale. They open the regular season Sept. 11 on the road against the Chicago Bears. While they want a good test against the Steelers, they want to avoid a rash of injuries.

“Ultimately, it’s about being healthy going into that first game against Chicago,” McClure said. “We want to have everybody healthy to go up there and win one when it counts.”

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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247 comments Add your comment

Mike

August 26th, 2011
6:55 am

I would like to see the defense mainly secondary play better.

Mike

August 26th, 2011
6:56 am

BTW,……..First!

HJones

August 26th, 2011
6:57 am

After standing up to the rugged Pittsburgh Steelers in a hard-fought 15-9 overtime loss, the Falcons went on to win 12 of their next 13 games on their way to the NFC South championship. “Hard-fought” my a#@! We should have won the game. We gave the ball to Michael Turner on FIRST DOWN a total of NINE times in the four quarters and then TWO times in the OT period. He gained a total of 42 yards for a 2.2 average. We need to pass more and stop the predictable play-calling. We need to let the offense GO!

Tony

August 26th, 2011
7:02 am

Just can’t understand why this team insist on trying to run the ball against teams that are the best at stopping the run. Just doesn’t sound like a great plan to me. We added weapons this off season to be a more effective passing team so lets use them on all downs and not just on 3rd downs.

Willie Coyote

August 26th, 2011
7:10 am

If Pitt focuses on Turner, go to the pass exclusively. If they try to take that away, go to Turner. If their perimeter coverage is good, go to the slot. There are too many weapons on this team for them to not be able to put a few drives together against ANY defense.

HJones

August 26th, 2011
7:22 am

The Falcons lost that game because the OC kept running Micheal Turner again and again for practically no yards. The Falcons had 4 more first downs than the Steelers. Roddy White had 111 yards.

HJones - Anemic Running Offense

August 26th, 2011
7:33 am

In the Sept 2010 game, the Falcons had 18 1st Downs. The Offensive Coordinator called Michael Turner’s number nine times in the regular period on 1st down and then 2 times in the over time period on 1st down. He gained a total of 42 yards and his average was 2.2 yards. Let’s run him some more and control the clock!!!!

Conservative Offense

August 26th, 2011
7:36 am

In last year’s game, the Falcons had 18 1st Downs. The Offensive Coordinator ran Michael Turner 9 times in the regular period on 1st down and then 2 times in the over time period on 1st down. He gained a total of 42 yards and his average was 2.2 yards. Let’s run him some more and control the clock!!!!

HJones

August 26th, 2011
7:38 am

Please take my address out of the filter that detects one negative thought about Mike Mularkey and his conservative play calling.

PlanB

August 26th, 2011
7:39 am

Seems like the fans know more than the coordinators. If #1 defense against the run stops us, pass the ball. Receiving corp is too good to try to keep running.

PlanB

August 26th, 2011
7:39 am

Please throw one screen pass!!!!!!

JoeyBananas

August 26th, 2011
7:40 am

@ Willie – while agree that the offense is even more potent than last year, it’s just impossible for it to be as simple as you put it against the Steelers’ defense, at least during the real season. They aren’t your average defense, or even your average good defense. Dick Lebeau is notorious for confusing the hell out of offensive coordinators and quarterbacks better than any D coordinator in the biz. It’s going to be a nice test for both teams tonight, but as was said by McClure, you can’t put too much into it either way it goes during preseason.

HJones

August 26th, 2011
7:41 am

Last year in Pittsburgh, MT ran the ball on 11 of the 18 first downs and gained 42 yards.

Shotyme

August 26th, 2011
7:42 am

our season depends on Mularkey’s play calling

Larry

August 26th, 2011
7:42 am

This is a game when they should use the pass to set up the run. I agree with you, Tony. Why in the world would they try to force the run against the league’s best run defense?

Falcon fan since prime

August 26th, 2011
7:53 am

The way u beat Pitt is to spread them out and dink and dunk..kinda like we did bmore last year

HJones

August 26th, 2011
7:54 am

Too much M. Turner – JoeBananas. We had a potent passing offense last year but chose not to use it except in the Baltimore game. Only someone wanting to loose his job would continue to run M. Turner when he is stopped for 2 yards or less. I was wrong about the 42 yards on 1st downs above in last year’s game. It was 22 yards on 11 1st down attempts. The average was 2.0 YPC. Two times in OT when you need points to win the game.

HJones

August 26th, 2011
7:59 am

I apologize about the incorrect stats on MT running in last year’s game. MT gained 22 yards on 11 first down runs. The 42 was the total for all runs.. NOT VERY MUCH!! PREDICTABLE!!!

ant man

August 26th, 2011
8:00 am

If the Falcons are a take what you give them type team, take the short passes with Tony G to keep those linbackers honest. This will set up the explosive deep pass, and if Ryan is able to connect we’ll be ok: that is on offense. We still have BIG problems with that secondary

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Ebizzness

August 26th, 2011
8:08 am

1. One game at a time!
2. One game at a time!
3. One game at a time!
4. One game at a time!
5. One game at a time!

DawgFan

August 26th, 2011
8:20 am

Five Things I’m Looking For -
1. How does the partially revamped O-Line protect MattyIce against a defense as dangerous as Pittsburgh’s…

2. With a stout receiving corps and lots of depth at running back, can Atlanta capitalize on some play action and some full house sets…

3. Have the 2nd and 3rd strings (limited playing time this week) improved after blowing the last two preseason games…

4. Like you said, how will our updated D-Line look against some first string competition…

5. Brent Grimes plays like a man with twice as much heart. Can the rest of the Falcons secondary step up…

I’m a Falcons and Steelers fan, so I love watching these two teams play. I was at the Dome the last time Pittsburgh came to town and there were as many or more Steelers fans than Falcons fans. I know the lockout left a sour taste in some peoples mouths, but I am excited for some smashmouth football like we’ll see Saturday. Bring it on!

DawgFan

August 26th, 2011
8:22 am

Is anyone else having problems posting something and it doesn’t show up? It’s happened to me a lot lately, and when I repost my comment, I get a message that the comment is a duplicate and has been deleted. I don’t get it…

Charlie Manuel

August 26th, 2011
8:22 am

THe last thing I care about is how we are going to get Gonzo involved in the passing game…….I mean please…..he will always be a great target as long as he is here.

The Real Falcon

August 26th, 2011
8:23 am

Why would a winning team decide NOT to run the ball because the team they’re playing is good in that area? With that game planning we would be a different team each week. We do what we do and let them try and stop us. That is what winning teams do.

Gumbo

August 26th, 2011
8:24 am

1. Can defense get off the field in 3rd and long?
2. Will Owens get any closer to an opposing receiver while on the bench than he was while on the field?
3. Can Mike Turner make anybody miss?
4. Can Franks continue to improve?
5. Will an alien grab Mike Mularkey and take him back to become ruler of Planet Predictable?

Sometimes, I can be such a pessimist…

TheEndzoneAnalyist

August 26th, 2011
8:25 am

We need to see Franks step up and have a solid game at corner. That’s the main concern of the team going forward this season. It will also be interesting to see Walls in the nickel. He has had some decent plays in preseason and in mini-camp as well as good size to play the position.

TC Tech

August 26th, 2011
8:25 am

I am a huge falcons fan, but if I hear “explosive plays” one more time I might jump off a bridge…..damn it I just said it!!!!!!!!!!!

Joe

August 26th, 2011
8:27 am

Thank you for not saying anything about, “explosive plays”…….I am sick of that……

DocReem

August 26th, 2011
8:31 am

1. See if the offense can make any big plays against this defense
2. Do we have a real back up QB that actually pull out a win
3.Where is Jaquizz Rogers (we need to incorporate a quick back to complement Turner and Snelling)
4.What can Ray Edwards do in this defense
5.Can any CB or Nickel make a play on the ball other than Grimes

Gumbo

August 26th, 2011
8:31 am

1. Will the defense get off the field on 3rd and long?
2. Will Chris Owens get closer to an opposing receiver while on the bench than he could while on the field?
3. Will Mike Turner ever make the first guy miss?
4. Can Franks continue to improve?
5. Will an alien grab Mike Mularkey and take him back to become ruler of Planet Predictable?

DawgFan

August 26th, 2011
8:36 am

Five Things I’m Looking For -
1. How does the partially revamped O-Line protect MattyIce against a defense as dangerous as Pittsburgh’s…

2. With a stout receiving corps and lots of depth at running back, can Atlanta capitalize on some play action and some full house sets…

3. Have the 2nd and 3rd strings (limited playing time this week) improved after losing the last two preseason games…

4. Like you said, how will our updated D-Line look against some first string competition…

5. Brent Grimes plays like a man with twice as much heart. Can the rest of the Falcons secondary step up…

I’m a Falcons and Steelers fan, so I love watching these two teams play. I was at the Dome the last time Pittsburgh came to town and there were as many or more Steelers fans than Falcons fans. I know the lockout left a sour taste in some peoples mouths, but I am excited for some smashmouth football like we’ll see Saturday. Bring it on!

dean

August 26th, 2011
8:43 am

1.) Don’t
2.) Show
3.) Too
4.) Much
5.) Playbook

HJones

August 26th, 2011
8:48 am

DawgFan, This blog doesn’t want you to say much negative about the Falcons. In particular, nothing negative about M. Turner, M. Mularkey, play-calling, boring offense, etc. The AJC and DOL doesn’t want to offend the Falcons Front Office. DOL might loose his access. Everything DOL says about the offense is always positive; no facts about the anemic running game in the BIG games.

J.J.M.

August 26th, 2011
8:53 am

THROW A DEEP BALL

DawgFan

August 26th, 2011
8:59 am

HJones, I’ve not said anything negative about the Falcons. Yeah, the write-up I did was a bit longer, but not much longer than your reply to me. I even went back and tried to change words that I thought might be tripping the censor, even though the words weren’t bad. I suppose I’ll just try again.

Parker

August 26th, 2011
9:02 am

Why would we run against the best run defense in the league? Here’s a couple reasons.
1. Posession time – we want 12-15 play drives. Gotta get the close yardage first downs.
2. More people in the box, less in coverage. It’ll make them scrap the zone a little more.
3. Pitt is the best test for a still dominant MT & O LINE. These guys are pro bowlers for a reason. If they can get success on Saturday, they”ll push around anybody.

If it aint broke dont fix it!

Mike Mularkey – Im so glad you didnt get a job somewhere else this offseason

DawgFan

August 26th, 2011
9:02 am

1. Even though they’ll see limited playing time, have the 2nd and 3rd strings improved since the last two weeks…

2. With a stout receiving group and a deep field of running backs, will we see more play-action and more full house or multiple back sets…

3. With a revamped D-Line cause any havoc for the Steelers…

4. Will a revamped O-Line be able to protect Matt Ryan against a defense as strong as Pittsburgh’s…

5. Can anyone not named Brent Grimes step up in that Falcons secondary…

Tyrone Shulaces

August 26th, 2011
9:04 am

1. Somebody – anybody – cover somebody.
2. Somebody – anybody – cover somebody.
3. Somebody – anybody – cover somebody.
4. Somebody – anybody – cover somebody.
5. Something other than Burnt Toast on my TV screen. I keep thinking I’m on the Food Channel.

PMC

August 26th, 2011
9:08 am

1) Health

2) Health

3) Health

4) Nickelback making plays

5) Rey Edwards looking healthy

Bonus) The Offensive line look competant.

Treeofwoe

August 26th, 2011
9:08 am

(1) Who steps up at Nickelback?
(2) How does Ray affect our ability to rush against a good O Line?
(3) Can we drive against a SuperBowl Defense and handle their blitz?
(4) Can we cover kicks?
(5) Does everyone stay healthy?

Matt

August 26th, 2011
9:12 am

@Tony, we have to try to run the ball against every team out there. A huge part of our offense is running and Play Action passes. No running=No play action.

PMC

August 26th, 2011
9:12 am

The closer we get to the year the more I love the team.

I love what they’ve done in FA. They got Edwards who should be the perfect guy for that role. They brought back Snelling who helps the RB depth tremendously. They brought back Grimes, who was the best corner back on the team last year. Robinson is in his 2nd year. The two safeties look great. Jerry is getting healthy. Douglass is healthy. They trade (4 not 5) selections for Jones while still filling the needs they had at Defensive end and back up MLB. Haven’t even made it to resigning Clabo and Blalock for continuity.

Still worried about Bosher and depth at CB but every team has issues.

This is a darn good football team. Hoping they can play prettier football this year.

PMC

August 26th, 2011
9:15 am

DLed, if you get a chance to ask any questions (if they will actually tell you anything) about Corey Peters health. Please let us know.

Thanks,

P.

PMC

August 26th, 2011
9:19 am

Pittsburgh has one of the best front 7’s in football. I really want to see them use Rodgers in the passing game, getting him into space. They did not have that element the last time they played Pittsburg.

Astro Joe

August 26th, 2011
9:24 am

1. Peria Jerry make 1-2 impactful plays in the backfield.
2. Spoon make a few impactful plays anywhere.
3. A successful screen play featuring Jacquizz.
4. Ray Edwards with a sack.
5. Everyone leaves healthy.

El Bravo

August 26th, 2011
9:26 am

Two of your questions are fluff. We know what Roddy and Tony G can do and how they fit into the offense. The more important questions are:
1) How does Ray Edwards fit into the defense?
2) Is Michael Turner still a top-tier RB or is he slowing down (he clearly lost a step)?
3) Are we going to see anything exotic on offense? More 3 receiver sets. 4 or 5 receiver sets. We have the weapons but are we going to use them.
4) Can our revamped O-Line be as physical as the Steelers D-Line?
5) Do we have adequate depth in the secondary? Is not just about Franks but about the rest of those cats being able to hold their own against the top passing attacks in the league.

DZ

August 26th, 2011
9:35 am

I’d like to see Michael Turner make at least 3 good runs vs Pitt’s 1st string D. Other than that, I am okay with the offense.
As for D, I’d like a 1st quarter shutout and at least one sack on Ben Roethlisberger.

PMC

August 26th, 2011
9:35 am

I want to see Quizz get involved in the passing game against the Steelers 1st string front 7. The last time they played, The Falcons had no passing element out of the back field, it was 3 yards and a cloud of dust with Michael Turner. I want to see if Quizz can put pressure on the defense.

Birdman

August 26th, 2011
9:38 am

A cohesive Offensive Line. Tired of hearing how smart Ryan is for throwing it away on third down. How about how sorry the OL is for not giving him time to find the open receiver. If JAX game is any indication then we have some problems on the line that will negate anything Julio brings. Give him time to throw and you will see downfield throws. And yes a screen pass helps negate an aggressive rush, so call some smart plays.