GAME STORY: Steelers 34, Falcons 16

The view from the pressbox at Heinz Field. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

The view from the pressbox at Heinz Field. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

PITTSBURGH — Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards had a quiet debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 34-16 defeat Saturday night.

The Steelers improved to 2-1 and the Falcons dropped to 0-3 during the exhibition season.

Edwards, the team’s prized free-agent signee, did not play in the first two exhibition games because he was recovering from offseason knee surgery.

Edwards, who played well into the third quarter, did not record a sack or a tackle, but his presence may have led to sacks by defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux and Vance Walker.

“I don’t know if they were too happy with my performance today, but I’m going back to the drawing board to see what I can do,” Edwards said.

After Edwards signed with the Falcons on July 29, Falcons coach Mike Smith noted that his presence would help the entire defensive line and not just right defensive end John Abraham, who finished with 13 sacks and 17 quarterback hurries last season.

“We did get some pressure on the quarterback early there in the first half,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We got him on the ground. We had him running a little bit. . .  I have to watch the tape, but I felt him out there. I certainly did.”

With Edwards in the lineup against the Steelers, Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was like a kid with a new toy.

“We got some good pressure, but there are some other things we need to work on,” Edwards said. “We have to get more pressure, get more sacks and get more quarterbacks down.”

Edwards played some left end, but frequently switched sides with Abraham. He also dropped into coverage three times while playing on the left side in the first half.

On his second drop into pass coverage, Edwards picked up Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall out of the backfield.

The Steelers seem to pay Edwards a great deal of respect early. On their first two plays, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rolled out to his left, away from Edwards, before he connected with tight end David Johnson for gains of 17 yards on each play.

On the Steelers’ second possession, the Falcons came up with a sack when they forced Pittsburgh into an obvious passing situation. On a third-and-17, Edwards had a strong rush from left end and appeared to be held by Pittsburgh right tackle Willie Colon.

Edwards flushed Roethlisberger to his left, where he was sacked by Babineaux. If Roethlisberger had scooted away from Babineaux, Abraham was waiting for him.

After a Falcons’ turnover and a hustle play by Harry Douglas to stop Lawrence Timmons from scoring on an interception return, Edwards didn’t take the field with the short-yardage defense. Playing without Edwards, the Falcons held the Steelers out of the end zone and forced them to kick a field goal.

Pittsburgh, on the strength off two long touchdown passes, held a 24-16 lead at halftime.

Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown connected on touchdown passes of 77 and 44 yards.  The Falcons’ defense was playing with defensive tackle Corey Peters (knee) and starting right cornerback Dunta Robinson (hamstring).

“I’m concerned when you give up big plays,” Smith said. “You can’t give up explosive plays. We talk about it all the time.”

The Falcons’ offense moved the ball, but had to settled for three Matt Bryant field goals in the first half.

“Obviously we caught the ball well,” wide receiver Roddy White said. “I felt good about what we did. But when we get down there in the red zone, we have to score touchdowns. Especially against teams that have really good defenses down there. When you get down there, you have to score touchdowns. We just have to do a better job of that.”

After a scoreless third quarter, the Falcons were driving early in the fourth quarter, but backup quarterback Chris Redman’s pass intended for Kerry Meier was intercepted by Pittsburgh’s Crezdon Butler, who returned it 95 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-16.

Pittsburgh’s Swayze Waters added a 27-yard for the final margin. 

Despite the margin of victory, the Falcon had their moments.

Rookie wide Receiver Julio Jones flashed his speed and got behind Pittsburgh’s star safety Troy Polamalu, but dropped the deep ball in the end zone. Jones caught five passes for 59 yards.

“Matt threw a great ball to me,” Jones said. “I’ve just got to make that play.”

White, who entered the game with just one catch during the exhibition season, had eight catches for 101 yards and a 10-yard touchdown pass.

The Falcons wanted to unleash their running attack against the Steelers, but running back Michael Turner was held to 19 yards on seven carries (2.7 per carry). The Steelers led the league last season in run defense, yielding just 62.8 yards per game.

With the running game shut down, quarterback Matt Ryan threw 42 passes. He completed 22 for 220 yards, a touchdown, an interception and finished with a passer rating of 65.6.

The Falcons roster currently stands at 85. They must reduce their roster to 80 players by Tuesday as part of the NFL’s mandatory roster cut down. The Falcons must trim down to 53 players by September 3 and may establish an eight-player practice squad on September 5.

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 on the road against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Sept. 11.

“We still have work to do,” Ryan said. “We still have some improving to do. We still have time to do it. We have these two weeks. We need to take full advantage of these two weeks so that when the regular season does roll around, when we go to Chicago, we are at our very best.”

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

262 comments Add your comment

Runner-

August 27th, 2011
10:46 pm

Runner-

August 27th, 2011
10:50 pm

What the heck was up with Turner today? And Matty Ice made some bad throws to wide open recievers. Our O-line was playing bad though, seems like Matt was pressured for most of the night. Much to improve before the preseason.

Chandler going Deep..

August 27th, 2011
10:54 pm

2nd……………………………………

Chandler going Deep..

August 27th, 2011
10:55 pm

0-3,0-4,0-5,0-6……Here comes the excuses! What you got D3? Yawn….

John

August 27th, 2011
10:56 pm

The Falcons are a wild-card team, and a first round loser again. That secondary is weak, until Matty Ice can show me he can throw a 20 yard pass with some mustard on it, I will continue to believe that arm is subpar…Good news, Matty Ice will get you to a playoff, but ATL fans will have to be satified with mediocracy..that’s the sad truth.

Chandler going Deep..

August 27th, 2011
10:57 pm

IceMelt for Cutler!

gman

August 27th, 2011
10:59 pm

FalconFan

August 27th, 2011
10:59 pm

John, did you not see him zing a long, deep pass to Julio Jones? Jones didn’t catch it but on that play Matt Ryan showed his arm strength. He has above average arm strength. He can sling it. Better than you I bet.

Don't feed Aints trolls (It isn't 2009 anymore)

August 27th, 2011
11:02 pm

Some of you need to be riding the short bus. Seriously?

The Good

Matt Ryan had a solid game against the best defense in the league bar none. If his receivers didn’t let him down his numbers would have been even better. The Int was on a tipped pass I think, so that was not his fault. Jones should have had that TD catch as that was a beautiful pass. Weems dropped two key passes on the sidelines. So, really Ryan’s numbers should be a lot better. Not saying he was perfect, but he was better than you trolls are making out.

Other than the one catch in the end zone, Jones continues to impress. What impresses me most is watching him block on run plays.

We had 5 WR with over 10 ypc.

We had 13 players catch a pass

Quizz averaged over 5 yards per carry.

We were only sacked once by one of the best pass rushes in the league.

realist

August 27th, 2011
11:02 pm

Falcons have not looked good at all this preseason

Will have to work to make the playoffs.

dawggirl

August 27th, 2011
11:02 pm

And Bradley wonders why no one is buzzing about this team? They did not look good.

gman

August 27th, 2011
11:03 pm

Wild card? Playoffs? NO way, not playing like this. 8-8 at best. Matt needs to be ready when the game starts, not warming up in the 2nd quarter. Mularkey better NOT call the same play scheme as last year. BVG needs to stop with the zone. IT”S NOT WORKING.

I predict, if we do not get to the NFC championship game ( and we certainly won’t) Coordinator and position coaches will get replaced.

bgfalcon

August 27th, 2011
11:03 pm

whats up with these fake comments? matty ice can throw a ball more than 20 yards, he did it in this game he almost hit julio in the endzone on a 40+ yrd pass. antonio brown is like the pitt version of djax so ur not gonna stop him but other than that the 1st team D did pretty good too.

M&M

August 27th, 2011
11:04 pm

Sorry, But the falcons and Matt Ryan are degressing ! It doesn’t look good at all ! That’s what the Falcons brass get for gambling on players that are not going to get better ! Peria Jerry, Really ?! Chris Owens, Really ?! Dominic Franks, Really ?! Mark Redman, Really ?!

M&M

August 27th, 2011
11:05 pm

Kroy Beirman, Really ?!

Obvious

August 27th, 2011
11:06 pm

Matt Ryan not the problem.

Don't feed Aints trolls (It isn't 2009 anymore)

August 27th, 2011
11:06 pm

The Bad

Turner was a non factor, but not many running backs are against the Steelers. Still… he didn’t do anything at all.

I did not hear Edwards name called once

Ryan missed a sure TD when he over threw HD in the endzone when no one was within 5 yards of him. He also floated a couple passes that should have been completions.

Our D played well, and then they would get gouged for big plays. I REALLY don’t see what the coaching staff sees in Owens or Franks.

Grimes was trying to do too much and the safeties were never where they needed to be.

TG pushed off a little bit and costs us another score. He had the inside easy without pushing off.

woodie

August 27th, 2011
11:07 pm

Our secondary is very weak. When are we going to get some ballers ???

M&M

August 27th, 2011
11:07 pm

dawggirl

August 27th, 2011
11:02 pm
And Bradley wonders why no one is buzzing about this team? They did not look good.

So true !! :mad:

Back 2 Reality

August 27th, 2011
11:08 pm

Hey bgfalcon@11:03 pm, ALMOST DOESN”T COUNT!!!!

Chandler going Deep..

August 27th, 2011
11:09 pm

THE BAD? 0-6 after 9-18-11 Sunday night against the Eagles………

John = CLOWN

August 27th, 2011
11:10 pm

Wow, John, your comment is just complete nonsense. Falcons DBs had a bad half, but the Offense looked good. We were beating ourselves by dropping passes in the endzone, having another TD called back on a penalty, and having a slight miscue that would have been another TD. That’s what the Preseason is for, to work on those things. Matt Ryan looked good against one of the very toughest Defenses in the NFL. We went in to the 2nd half down 8, we go score and its a 1 point game. Even though this was a “dress rehearsal”, it’s still the Preseason. So bagging on Matt Ryan and saying that the falcons are doomed to mediocrity, or “mediocracy” for that matter, because of a half of Preseason football, shows that your opinion clearly is not valid. So shove it. Go Falcons!

M&M

August 27th, 2011
11:11 pm

Obvious

August 27th, 2011
11:06 pm
Matt Ryan not the problem.

I just wish he will get the deer in the headlight look off of his face !

Jean Shonay

August 27th, 2011
11:11 pm

I miss you Michael!!!

bgfalcon

August 27th, 2011
11:11 pm

ikno i was just stating a point saying matty ice can throw a deep ball. ryan probably didn’t want to get another pass tipped at the line so maybe thats why he kept throwing so high.

Don't feed Aints trolls (It isn't 2009 anymore)

August 27th, 2011
11:12 pm

Oh, another bad point

Bosher is going to cost us games. 35 yard average. Really? And can he NOT kick it out of the endzone even with the kickoff being practically in it? I didn’t like our special teams at all.

That being said, if you are on here acting like we got embarrassed in this game then you clearly don’t know anything about football.

Stepchild

August 27th, 2011
11:13 pm

Greenbay spread out the Steelers in the SB and made plays. Falcons tried to do the same early in the game…..first 5 plays or so were all pass plays from a spread formation. Problem is Matty Ice is no Aaron Rodgers….the inaccurate passing, inability to pass while on the move and inability to make the defense pay by throwing the ball down the field…means that this offense will be dink n dunk…run the ball….and very methodical. Great formula for regular season success…..no explosiveness = 1st round playoff loss.Greenbay spread out the Steelers in the SB and made plays. Falcons tried to do the same early in the game…..first 5 plays or so were all pass plays from a spread formation. Problem is Matty Ice is no Aaron Rodgers….the inaccurate passing, inability to pass while on the move and inability to make the defense pay by throwing the ball down the field…means that this offense will be dink n dunk…run the ball….and very methodical. Great formula for regular season success…..no explosiveness = 1st round playoff loss.

MORONS

August 27th, 2011
11:14 pm

THIS WAS 1 HALF A PRESEASON GAME

Stepchild

August 27th, 2011
11:14 pm

ooops….pasted it twice…sorry.

J.J.M.

August 27th, 2011
11:15 pm

edwards got put on his ass on that one TD throw

bgfalcon

August 27th, 2011
11:15 pm

our QB is mediocre but people keep comparing his stats to don shula, and peyton manning… i’m guessing they’re pretty mediocre too huh? smh.. this guy is your FRANCHISE QB. get used to it folks! he will be around for ten more years! who cares if you think he can’t throw more than 20 yards? the guy wins, and thats all u shuld be focussed on.

Um...

August 27th, 2011
11:16 pm

M&M- Who is Mark Redman? You freakin schmuck

M&M

August 27th, 2011
11:17 pm

John = CLOWN

So, you don’t think that was a bad game ?! You my friend is the one who is delusional.

Don't feed Aints trolls (It isn't 2009 anymore)

August 27th, 2011
11:18 pm

Are you blind stepchild? 220 yards, 1 TD with another TD dropped and another TD called back by the slightest push off is a very good performance against the Steelers. We had great success when we went 4 wide and empty back field. Some of you actually seem to want to hate on the team so much you watch a different game in your head than what is actually on the field

M&M

August 27th, 2011
11:18 pm

Um…

August 27th, 2011
11:16 pm
M&M- Who is Mark Redman? You freakin schmuck

Don’t get mad at me because the falcons are bad ! I had nothing to do with it !

WTF!

August 27th, 2011
11:19 pm

Matt Ryan 22 – 42 220 yards, 1td and 1int. Really? 42 passes and only throwing for 220 yards? He’d have to throw 84 passes just to get 400 yards. Matt Ryan’s arm is a joke. Explosive offense my behind. Keep on buying those wolf tickets that the Falcons are selling.

Chandler going Deep..

August 27th, 2011
11:20 pm

EXCUSES, BLAH,BLAH,BLAH………

bgfalcon

August 27th, 2011
11:21 pm

don’t feed-you and i seem to be the only true falcons fans who actually watched this game. the others seem like fake fans who either don’t know a thing about football or really didn’t watch the game

Chandler going Deep..

August 27th, 2011
11:21 pm

Storm coverage: We’ve seen this before IceMelt….

M&M

August 27th, 2011
11:22 pm

Don’t feed Aints trolls (It isn’t 2009 anymore)

Why is this not embarrasing ?! :???:

Clueless

August 27th, 2011
11:22 pm

5 things we learned from this game. 1) Turner is slow and has no moves. 2) The Quizz kid can play and is one tough little runner. 3) Ryan still can miss a wide open receiver in the endzone. The pass to Harry D. was just plain pathetic. 4) Our secondary is still pretty weak. 5) If Grimes was just 3 inches taller he would have made 2 spectacular plays. Well he isn’t and that cost us 2 touchdowns.

Stepchild

August 27th, 2011
11:22 pm

Don’t feed – Yes the stats are very nice…..but ….they didn’t add up to a lot of points. Who cares about yards that don’t equate to points?? You trade field goals when other teams are scoring TD’s and you my friend will be a losing team. No reason not to score TD’s…they had 2nd string cornerbacks in the game. So maybe YOU were watching a different game in YOUR head!!! Not a big play to speak of. Nice underneath passes though….ok? Happy now?

bgfalcon

August 27th, 2011
11:23 pm

my problem with this offense is the running game. turner looks just absolutely slow. it’s getting to a poimt where turner might be a liability to our offense.

Stepchild

August 27th, 2011
11:25 pm

Don’t Feed – What did you think of Ray Edwards???? I didn’t find him to be as disruptive as I wanted him to be. I’m just glad that Julio is clearly a player….otherwise our offseason would be too disappointing. Still have cornerback problems…..Defense still needs to be addressed. Can you honestly say that we made the moves to be a better team than last year? We are treading water….going nowhere fast.

Chandler going Deep..

August 27th, 2011
11:26 pm

Where’s the BUZZ?

M&M

August 27th, 2011
11:26 pm

bgfalcon

August 27th, 2011
11:21 pm
don’t feed-you and i seem to be the only true falcons fans who actually watched this game. the others seem like fake fans who either don’t know a thing about football or really didn’t watch the game

We are just fustrated because the falcon’s brass could have done more this year to get this team in the superbowl, and they sat and did nothing ! And it’s showing it’s ugly head !

Chandler going Deep..

August 27th, 2011
11:27 pm

First 6 games could go 2-4….

Don't feed Aints trolls (It isn't 2009 anymore)

August 27th, 2011
11:27 pm

The point is Stepchild, you can’t put the fact we had to kick field goals instead of TDs on the QB. He threw 2 perfectly good TD passes. 1 was dropped. 1 the TE pushed off when he clearly didn’t need to because he had the inside track which is where Ryan threw the ball. I agree we can’t make those kinds of mistakes and hope to win the division again, but you were putting the blame on the wrong person

sas

August 27th, 2011
11:29 pm

bgfalcon = bulgaria????
come down guys, it’s still PRESEASON…

Chandler going Deep..

August 27th, 2011
11:30 pm

DLed, is Smith on the “Hot Seat” with another playoff loss?