Thanks to no Julio Jones, the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) on Sunday took another step closer towards becoming playoff bound with a 27-20 victory over the Atlanta Falcons (5-9).
With the win the Steelers improved to 9-5 on the season and remain in the top wildcard spot and in control to win the division if they win out.
Both offenses scored 20 points, Pittsburgh had 22 first downs, 398 yards, 6/11 on third down, Atlanta 407 yards of offense, 20 first downs, 6/11 on third down.
This was going to be a game where whichever mediocre defense got a big turnover would be the team to prevail.
It ended up being the Steelers as William Gay’s 52 yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter was the key play of the game that separated the two teams.
Gay in the second year of a three year, $4.5 million contract, has emerged as the Steelers best cornerback the last two seasons and great value at $1.5 million per season. He has set a franchise record with three INT returns for touchdowns this season.
Overall, Pittsburgh’s defense came up with the critical takeaway and got enough stops in the red zone, holding the Falcons to 2-4 in the redzone.
The Atlanta Falcons were determined to not let Le’Veon Bell beat them and Falcons coach Mike Smith admitted that afterwards. While Bell scored two touchdowns in the win, Atlanta succeeded as Bell rushed for just 47 yards on 20 carries, keeping him under three yards per carry.
What the Falcons couldn’t do was stop the Steelers through the air and get a big stop on third down in the second half.
Ben Roethlisberger threw no touchdowns but had a great game at managing the game in the sense of taking what the Falcons defense gave him with a lot of a run-pass check downs at the line of scrimmage as the Falcons were crowding the box and Pittsburgh’s receivers did a good job of getting separation against a weak Falcons secondary.
Roethlisberger completed 27 of 35 passes for 360 yards and a 109.2 QB rating. Antonio Brown had another monster game with 10 catches for 123 yards, while others contributed in the receiving game with Le’Veon Bell (5 rec, 72 yards), Heath Miller (4 rec, 68 yards) and Markus Wheaton (5 rec, 66 yards
1. New England Patriots (11-3)
2. Denver Broncos (11-3)
3. Indianapolis Colts (10-4)
4. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1) | Week 16 vs Denver, Week 17 @ Pittsburgh |
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) | Week 16 vs Kansas City, Week 17 vs Cincinnati |
6. Baltimore Ravens (9-5) | Week 16 @ Houston, Week 17 vs Cleveland |
7. Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) | Week 16 @ Pittsburgh, Week 17 vs San Diego |
8. San Diego Chargers (8-6) | Week 16 @ San Francisco, Week 17 @ Kansas City |
9. Buffalo Bills (8-6) | Week 16 @ Oakland, Week 17 @ New England |