A number of the young players came to play, and Pittsburgh’s offense continued to run like a well-oiled machine while the defense did a solid job containing a high-powered Atlanta offense.
Not all was good, though, as the Steelers came out of the game banged up, including losing backup quarterback Byron Leftwich to a broken left arm.
Despite initial speculation that he would miss the entire season, it has not yet been determined how much time Leftwich will actually miss.
Leftwich aside, here are 10 observations from the Steelers victory over the Falcons.
In his Sunday column, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook wrote:
Just about everybody on the Steelers bench jumped up in anticipation of a touchdown as wide receiver Antonio Brown, far behind the Atlanta Falcons' secondary, waited for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's pass to come down from the heavens. One man did not. Center Maurkice Pouncey could not jump up.
That's the only thing I'll remember from the Steelers' 34-16 win Saturday night if Pouncey's left ankle injury is at all serious and he has to miss the opening game at Baltimore in two weeks.
Cook nailed it.
Getting into rhythm and evaluating players are two goals of preseason games, but the most important is to get out of every game healthy and regardless of the severity of the injury, Pouncey did not make it out healthy.
Rashard Mendenhall not scoring from the Atlanta two-yard line was disappointing, but it did not leave me with the sick feeling that I got as Pouncey was grabbing his ankle.
He hurt his ankle in the AFC Championship game last season and tweaked it earlier this preseason.
Pouncey’s ankle will have to be in top form if he is to last the entire season.
Luckily he appeared to have dodged a bullet with this injury, and the coaches should sit him in the final preseason game so he can be at full health come kickoff weekend.
Just a few short weeks ago I sat watching Steelers’ practice and saw Antonio Brown make multiple mental mistakes. So much for his development.
But then he began to get more reps with injuries to Hines Ward and Emmanuel Sanders.
Working with the starters, Brown was beginning to stand out and has been outstanding in the preseason.
His latest effort Saturday night netted him four receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns as well as a 51-yard kickoff return to begin the game.
Brown had already been leading the team with five receptions this preseason for 93 yards but had his biggest plays with touchdown receptions of 77 yards and 44 yards.
His hard work is beginning to pay off.
“I’ll just continue to get better and improve day in and day out,” Brown said. “You can see the results just pan out.”
Brown’s teammates took notices, especially his quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“He’s a really good football player,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s got good instincts.”
Brown is becoming another big play threat besides Mike Wallace and reminds me a lot of Santonio Holmes.
He demonstrated his breakaway speed which is huge when turning a short pass into a “splash play” as Mike Tomlin would say.
Brown has eased fears of the Steelers’ depth at receiver and has all but solidified himself as the No. 3, ahead of the injured Sanders and Jericho Cotchery.
Admittedly I was a bit worried with Marcus Gilbert starting at left tackle against a solid Atlanta defensive front.
Overall, he played pretty well.
Gilbert did allow one sack and another hit on Roethlisberger but was otherwise solid.
Tony Hills was a player who I did not notice and that is a good thing when talking about linemen.
He had a key block on Mendenhall’s one-yard touchdown run and continued to show his ability to pull.
There is little doubt that Hills locked up the right guard job with his performance.
Isaac Redman had 20 yards on five carries as he continues to establish himself as a legitimate backup running back.
Redman is a one cut runner who makes his move and accelerates forward.
He did a great job hitting the holes and should see more carries this season.
Early in camp, David Johnson looked outstanding both blocking and receiving.
He finally got a chance to show his receiving abilities with back-to-back receptions on the opening drive totaling 34 yards.
On both plays, Roethlisberger rolled out to his left and found an open Johnson.
Pittsburgh has tried to upgrade their backup tight end spot with visits from Daniel Graham and Reggie Kelly, but neither signed.
For now it is Johnson’s job.
Bruce Arians is calling plays the way fans have wanted for years.
Roethlisberger was rolling out. They ran a play that was successful more than once. It has been nice to see.
Speaking of Roethlisberger, he has been flat out money so far.
On Saturday, he went 11-for-16 for 214 yards and two touchdowns. To put that in perspective, Matt Ryan had 220 passing yards on 22-for-42.
But he is not satisfied.
“It’s still another performance, in my opinion, where I’m happy that we scored but I am still a little disappointed that we haven’t done as well as I think we should have,” Roethlisberger said after the game. “We had a couple of breakdowns, some different things here and there that have stalled us as an offense.”
Roethlisberger has some lofty expectations, and they could be met, even exceeded.
When healthy, the Steelers have the deepest receiving corps in the league along with the dependable Heath Miller and Mendenhall in the backfield.
Pittsburgh could set some franchise offensive records this season.
James Harrison is still clearly slowed by his back.
Though he pressured Ryan multiple times, he did not have the speed to chase him down and ended up jogging out the play.
Meanwhile, Lawrence Timmons will need to take an increased responsibility if Harrison is not up to par.
He is by far the Steelers most athletic linebacker as he displayed with his 44-yard interception return.
The Falcons had 42 pass attempts in the first half against the Steelers. This could be a trend this season.
Pittsburgh’s backup cornerbacks William Gay and Keenan Lewis did a fair job as Ryan completed just over 50 percent of his passes and had one touchdown and one interception.
But all too often Ryan was able to escape the pressure that the Steelers’ defense brought.
Besides Ike Taylor, the Steelers do not have a shutdown cornerback who can shut down a receiver if there is no pressure, but more importantly no sacks.
Jason Worilds was noticed by me for the first time this preseason.
He had a quarterback hit and nearly had another sack if Steve McLendon didn’t get there first.
We still need to see more pass rush from Worilds.
Stevenson Sylvester still is a special teams stud and showed some pass-rushing ability.
However, before he is ready to take the next step he will have to play under more control. He is overly aggressive and often over-pursues the runner.