After an absolutely brutal first quarter of the schedule, the second quarter turned a bit easier.
The Chiefs' beatdown is already in the books and right now only the Broncos look to be a formidable opponent. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. That game is two weeks off and the Falcons aren't quite dead yet. Close, but they still have a pulse.
When the schedules were released last spring, the Falcons game certainly didn't leap off the page as a "gimme", and Atlanta's season-opening win against Carolina followed by a win against Tampa Bay furthered the notion that maybe head coach Jim Mora finally found a way to maximize Michael Vick's unique talents. Since starting 2-0, however, the Falcons have dropped games to the Saints (in New Orleans on Monday Night Football; and let's be honest, no visiting team stood a chance that night) and were spanked by the Giants last week.
So who knows what'll happen Sunday. My gut tells me the Steelers will win going away, but my gut also told me the Steelers should've traded for Patrick Ramsey following the 2003 season, so take that for what it's worth.
Seriously, the Falcons are a one-dimensional offense (hello, Warrick Dunn) that struggles to stop the run. History suggests the Steelers are very good at shutting down one-dimensional offenses, and treading defenses that can't stop the run. I mean, it doesn't take Norman Einstein to figure that out, right?
Just in case you need more convincing, consider these numbers through six weeks:
Hmm. I wonder what Pittsburgh's game plan will be? And while we think about that, take a look at this:
Atlanta's secondary ranks 22nd in the league against No. 1 receivers and 14th in the league against No. 2 receivers. This has to be good news for Hines Ward, and more importantly, Cedrick Wilson, who might actually manage to get open once or twice.
The Falcons are a top-ten team against other wideouts, tight ends and running backs, so it will be interesting to see how Nate Washington, Santonio Holmes and Heath Miller fare, as well as Ben Roethlisberger who, until last week, was on pace to throw something like 200 interceptions this season.
And even if Atlanta is able to shut down Pittsburgh's passing attack, it really has no answer to the run game -- last week Tiki Barber racked up 185 yards on 26 carries -- so barring a slew of Steelers' turnovers, I can't imagine this game being all that close. But I've been wrong before ...
Something else to consider is Atlanta's quarterback, Michael Vick. Is there a more overrated player in the NFL? I know T.O. gets a lot of exposure, but at least the guy's good. Vick currently ranks next-to-last in the league in passing efficiency ahead of Andrew Walter. (To be fair, Roethlisberger held this spot for the previous few weeks, but history suggested that Big Ben would improve and Vick would not.)
"It's not hard for me to make plays in the passing game,'' Vick said. "I think some people think I can't make plays [passing], but I can. I want people to recognize me as a complete quarterback. And I feel right now, I am.Yeah, this doesn't sound like a guy in denial ... or who currently completes just 50.4 percent of his pass attempts.
"Tom Brady, Peyton [Manning], Donovan... they all throw from the pocket, make the right decisions, do the right things. I'm up there with Peyton and Brady and Donovan. I think I'm there with that group [as a passer]. But I don't feel I get the credit I deserve as far as what I do and the impact I have on my team.''
I have a serious question: how much worse would this Falcons team be with Antwaan Randle El playing the role of Vick? In very limited opportunities Randle El certainly seems to be more accurate and a better decision maker, but who knows how that would play out over the course of an entire season. If nothing else, Randle El is much cheaper -- even after The Danny signed him to that inane contract ($8 million guaranteed) this off-season. Just something to think about when the Steelers are up by 40 in the fourth quarter.
Last week I suggested Nate Washington do something about his touchdown celebration because, frankly, it was awful. Here's what I wrote:
If I have one complaint, it's that Washington should've been flagged for his end zone dance. Not because it violated the new and infinitely inane celebration rule, but because it was so ridiculously awful.Well, I've given this some more thought and if Washington isn't crazy about busting out a "Napoleon Dynamite", how about these suggestions:
In fact, it would've been well within referee Scott Green's rights to throw a flag and explain the infraction thusly: "Hee-Haw dance infraction, No. 85 Pittsburgh. 15-yard penalty to be added to the kickoff. One more such penalty and the player will be ejected." It was that bad. Somebody give Washington a copy of this for future reference.
These are just something for Washington to think about as he prepares for his next touchdown celebration. And Nate, if you have any questions just remember: BOO-NO!