Week 1: Atlanta Falcons (0-0) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0)
Date: Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010
Kickoff: 1 p.m., ET
Odds: Atlanta -1
Game Day Notes: ATL-WR-Jenkins-Questionable; Jonathan Babineaux (susp); PIT-QB-Roethlisberger Out (susp); QB-Leftwich-OUT; QB-Dixon-Expected to start
Inactive List:: WR Antonio Brown, CB Keenan Lewis, CB Crezdon Butler, QB Byron Leftwich, OL Ramon Foster, OL Tony Hills, LB Thaddeus Gibson, RB Jonathan Dwyer
What This Means: Antonio Brown is listed first on the depth chart at kick and punt returner but based on Thursday’s and Friday’s practice, it appeared the Steelers were leaning towards Mewelde Moore returning kicks and Antwaan Randle El returning punts.
That will be the case with Moore and possibly Emmanuel Sanders returning kicks today and Randle El will be the primary punt returner.
Keenan Lewis has seen his stock plummet. He went from a guy pushing for a starting job to not even earning a “hat” in week 1.
Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden, William Gay and Anthony Madison will be the four active cornerbacks.
1. Preparing for Dennis Dixon: All eyes will be on Dennis Dixon who will make his second career NFL start and is the Steelers starter by default.
One major question mark is how conservative the Steelers will be. Will they play to win or not to lose
The Falcons defense will look to give the Steelers offense a number of different looks as Dixon struggles to read defenses. Many expect the Falcons to play less man-to-man coverage. The Steelers will need to avoid 3rd and longs and they are going to have to take some chances down the field.
Unlike Baltimore last year, the Falcons have had all week to prepare for Dixon.
2. Don’t be conservative: A key for Pittsburgh is not to be conservative. Establishing the run with Rashard Mendenhall will be a focal point for Pittsburgh but the Steelers are also going to have to make some plays in the passing game.
The Falcons revamped defense ranked 24th in the NFL last season and are more of a finesse defense than a bruising run stopping D. A Steelers offensive line led by rookie center Maurkice Pouncey will look to beat the Falcons in the trenches who will likely look to stack the line of scrimmage and make the Steelers beat them through the air.
3. Steelers secondary will be tested: Will a healthy Aaron Smith, Troy Polamalu and the return of Bryant McFadden lead to the Steelers defense getting back to elite?
The Falcons pose a good first test for the Steelers “D”. Matt Ryan is an excellent quarterback and is surrounded with a number of weapons including running back Michael Turner, wide receiver Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez.
Don’t be surprised if Atlanta looks to test the Steelers secondary early as the Steelers defense is built to eliminate the run.
The Steelers are not expected to shadow White even with Michael Jenks out of the lineup. A key for Pittsburgh will be to get pressure on Ryan. He has great poise and is excellent at reading defenses when given time.
4. Steelers 0-Line vs Falcons D-Line: One of the more under-rated matchups will be Atlanta defensive ends Kroy Biermann/John Abraham vs Steelers offensive tackles Max Starks and Flozell Adams.
5. Troy Polamalu: Polamalu is one of those rare difference markers in the game. He’ll be playing at full speed for the first time since his knee injury.
Steelers Team Notes
Pittsburgh looks for its eight straight win on Kickoff Weekend, which is the longest current streak in the NFL.
The he Steelers look to improve to 40-32-4 all-time on Kickoff Weekend.
The Steelers are looking to improve to 12-2-1 all-time against the Atlanta Falcons.
Pittsburgh looks to improve to 6-0-1 at home against the Falcons.
The Steelers look to improve to 20-5 at Heinz Field during the Mike Tomlin era (2007-present)