2022 Steelers Season Recall: Win in Atlanta is first back-to-back of 2022

Steel City Underground presents our 2022 Steelers Recall: a look back at Pittsburgh Steelers games and storylines from last season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had talked about stacking wins all week ahead of their Week 13 road game against the Atlanta Falcons. That was the mission, but it’d require careful execution on game day. With the 2022 NFL regular season winding down, the Steelers were successful; they ground out a victory over the Falcons, 19-16, and earned back-to-back wins for the first time during the 2022 season.

Pittsburgh may not have run-up the score, but run they did. In fact, despite not putting up the most rushing yards of the season, the Steelers played hard-nosed football that saw Najee Harris, Derek Watt, Jaylen Warren, and Benny Snell get grill-to-grill with Falcons defenders.

With a stadium full of Steelers fans – who always represent and travel well – the Steelers put together a ground game that included 154 yards and chewed up time of possession. Harris (17 carries for 86 yards) finished the game, literally, by running out the clock after a Minkah Fitzpatrick interception shut down any comeback hopes for the Falcons.

Embed from Getty Images

Outside of successful field goals by Matthew Wright, the only points scored by the Steelers was on a 17-yard touchdown toss from Kenny Pickett to Connor Heyward, set up by a Pat Freiermuth catch on the previous play that saw safety Jaylinn Hawkins bowled over and the big tight end tip-toeing along the sideline for 57 yards. The touchdown reception by Heyward was the first of his NFL career.

Older brother, Cameron Heyward, was emotional in his post-game press conference when talking about his brothers’ catch and family ties, also saying how important this win was for the team as a whole.

It was another positive game for Steelers QB Kenny Pickett, who continued to see his ratings climb week-by-week. Since the bye week, Pickett has posted QB ratings of 79.7, 85.9, 87.5, and now, 90.9.

Embed from Getty Images

In his first four starts this season, Pickett threw for 842 yards on a 67.11% completion rate, with 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. (A 71.8 rating.) He also took 12 sacks while rushing for 83 yards and no touchdowns. (Both of his early rushing scores were against the Jets, a game started by Mitchell Trubisky.)

With Atlanta being his eighth start of the season, he had four more starts to compare to his first four. In this group of four starts since the bye, Pickett had a 61.72% completion rate for 835 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 111 yards and a touchdown while taking 11 sacks.

The Falcons attempted to pull off a bit of gamesmanship early, but the Steelers were able to read what was being offered. It can only be assumed that when they went ground game-to-ground game against the Washington Commanders and lost, Atlanta wanted to get Pittsburgh to bite hard on the lure of just loading up the box.

Atlanta came out with a pass-heavy set. “I think they were trying to throw us off guard because they knew that we knew they were going to try to run the ball,” said Fitzpatrick. “So, they were getting into big personnel and throwing the ball, which was not something they (had done) often.”

The Steelers run defense was tested, and the Falcons went back to what made them the 2022 team they are in the second half. They ran 22 times for 118 yards compared to just 28 yards on six attempts in the first half, but the Steelers defense did not break down.

“You can never really be surprised,” T.J. Watt said in regard to Atlanta seemingly changed just for Pittsburgh. “At the end of the day, we have to be able to defend what they give us.”

Embed from Getty Images

Facing a potential 50+ yard field goal to extend their three-point lead to six with 53 seconds remaining in the game, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin turned to his special teams coordinator Danny Smith… and sent out punter Pressley Harvin III instead of replacement kicker Matthew Wright.

Despite playing in a dome, Wright hit an upright on one of his four made field goal attempts during the game, but Tomlin wasn’t risking a miss: and giving the Falcons decent field position with one of the league’s better kickers, Younghoe Koo, with a chance to tie things up if Atlanta could muster about 25 more yards off offense after a Steelers failed try.

Tomlin’s gamble paid off, as Harvin hit a beautiful punt, which was downed on Atlanta’s two yard line.

It was among the great work from the coverage team, who limited the Falcons to just 18.3 yards on kickoff returns. Wright was perfect in converting field goals on the day and carefully placed his kickoffs to help prevent big returns.

Following the near-perfect punt, Steelers S Minkah Fitzpatrick would pick off the first Marcus Mariota pass attempt after Atlanta got the ball back, icing the Steelers victory, back-to-back wins, and albeit, on the road. They would improve to 5-7 with a big date against the Baltimore Ravens looming next on the calendar.

Suggested articles from our sponsors