Steelers Scouting Report: NFL Week 13 at the Atlanta Falcons

Steel City Underground’s “Steelers Scouting Report” is a preview of each opponent Pittsburgh will face throughout the 2022-23 NFL regular season on a weekly basis, with analysis, injury news, and potential key matchups.

In Week 13 of the 2022 NFL regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be on the road for the second week in a row, this time to face an Atlanta Falcons team that have yet to see their ‘bye’ and have lost nine-of-twelve games this season by a single score. At 5-7, the Falcons would love to get closer to .500 with a win over the Steelers, just at a time when Pittsburgh is beginning to stack wins in two of their last three games.

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Falcons offense

It isn’t quarterback Marcus Mariota‘s arm that is the biggest concern for the Steelers; it’s Atlanta’s run game that begins with Cordarrelle Patterson. Atlanta enters Week 13 off of an efficient effort on the ground with Patterson and Tyler Allgeier achieving over 50 rushing yards a piece. Mariota was mobile, as well, gaining 49 of the offense’s 167 ground yards in Week 12.

The Steelers have moved into the sixth-best run defense spot in the league ahead of this game, however. The Falcons expect a challenge.

“It starts upfront with Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt and then you look at the backend, Minkah Fitzpatrick is playing at a high level,” Mariota said when talking about the Steelers defense this week. “Week in and week out we talk about it, it’s always going to be a challenge but this will be fun, it’s always fun going against this team.”

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The Falcons found success against top run defenses in the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, and the Washington Commanders who they squared off against in Week 12.

“They have a way of playing that makes them successful. They have a lot of QB runs… Patterson does a great job out of the backfield. It’s their style of play… it’s going to be a four-quarter battle.” – Cameron Heyward

The Falcons are currently the NFL’s fourth-best rushing team, averaging 160 yards rushing this season. They’ve averaged 151.3 rushing yards in their last three games. Allgeier (552 yards), Patterson (506 yards), Mariota (421 yards), and Caleb Huntley (347 yards) are the reason Atlanta has been able to manage other teams via the run, even in the close losses they’ve had.

One thing Atlanta’s offense is, is versatile. They love to mix the running backs into the pass game as well. That makes the Falcons a difficult team for opponents to make one-dimensional offensively.

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That isn’t to say that the Falcons can’t execute in the passing game, though. They will be without tight end Kyle Pitts for the remainder of the season following knee surgery, but they’ll have Olamide Zaccheaus, Drake London, and Damiere Byrd – their top three receivers this season – available on Sunday.

Byrd is averaging 25.4 yards per reception and Zaccheaus 15.5. That puts the Steelers’ defensive backfield on notice.

The issue, though, has been that Atlanta only threw for 174 yards of offense last week against Washington and for 131 yards in Week 11. Whether the Falcons will make themselves one-dimensional on offense is a question that has yet to be answered.

Parker Hesse is the expected starting tight end in place of Pitts, but Anthony Firkser and Mycole Pruitt could also see snaps offensively.

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Falcons defense

Atlanta is in an NFC South division that’s treading water, and when their offense stalls – as it did last week – the defense has been completely gassed. The Falcons had a real shot at beating Washington, but the defense couldn’t get off the field. The Commanders took a page out of the Falcons’ playbook and ran the ball down their throats.

When the defense made a nice play, getting the offense back on the field, Mariota threw an interception. The defense got the three-and-out only to see a penalty thrown against them on the ensuing punt that ended all hope.

This team has been a win-now team since Arthur Smith announced it during the off-season. They built to be competitive this year. They filled the roster with a load of veteran talent on single-season contracts in order to give themselves a real shot to take the division.

Last week, outside linebacker Arnold Ebiketie was able to play nine rowdy snaps before he was forced out due to injury. Without him in the lineup, Grady Jarrett was the Falcons’ pass rush.

Atlanta would like to be able to pressure Kenny Pickett, the Steelers’ rookie quarterback, but if Ebiketie isn’t able to go… well, it may be back to Jarrett giving all he’s got on Sunday. DeAngelo Malone got snaps in place of Ebiketie, and may be asked to do more again.

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Interior linebackers Troy Andersen and Mykal Walker saw rotational time together in Week 12. Andersen worked against Washington’s run attack and may be tasked with limiting Pittsburgh’s reemerging ground game, although Najee Harris‘ status is in question. Pittsburgh used Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland in Week 12, and they’re looking at getting Jaylen Warren back as well on Sunday.

The Falcons defense has allowed opponents to gain 1,530 yards against them on the ground through twelve weeks of play. Their opponents are averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and Atlanta has given up 15 rushing touchdowns.

The Falcons listed A. J. Terrell and Darrin Hall as their starting corners with Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins as their starting safeties against the Steelers. Don’t think Atlanta won’t mix things up, however, in the defensive secondary in order to limit Steelers receivers George Pickens and Diontae Johnson.

The Falcons defense has given up the second-most receiving yards to opponents (3,151) in the league this season. Atlanta is also allowing opponents a 68.1 completion percentage on passes and has given up 18 touchdowns to receivers.

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Falcons injury report

Week 13 injury/participation

Wednesday, November 30

  • OLB Arnold Ebiketie (Forearm) – LP
  • OL Chuma Edoga (Knee) – LP
  • RB Cordarrelle Patterson (Not Injury Related – Resting) – DNP
  • DL Jalen Dalton (Toe) – DNP

Thursday, December 1

  • OLB Arnold Ebiketie (Forearm) – LP
  • DL Jalen Dalton (Toe) – LP
  • OL Chuma Edoga (Knee) – DNP

 

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