The Steelers took an early lead and never looked back, defeating the Atlanta Falcons handedly, 41-17, at Heinz Field.
The win improved the Steelers to 2-2-1, and Coach Mike Tomlin said he hopes it’s a catalyst for them moving forward.
“Great team victory,” said Tomlin. “I thought a significant element of play was our big people on offense and defense. We were able to run the ball, we were able to minimize their running game. We were able to protect our quarterback, we were able to get after theirs. I thought they provided the wave that our football team rode. A lot of quality efforts. Good team football win. First win at home. We don’t take that for granted. Hopefully it’s a catalyst for us as we move forward.”
James Conner had a monster day, with 21 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns, adding four receptions for 75 yards.
“I was ready to go,” said Conner. “Tried to set the tone early on the first play of the game. I was excited. We just went 110 percent every play.”
Antonio Brown also recorded his first 100-yard receiving game of the season, with six catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was a great day to win,” said Brown. “We got some plays rolling. It was great that everyone believed in each other. The energy was great. It was important we started fast and established a rhythm, especially at home.”
The defense contained the Falcons explosive offense, sacking Matt Ryan six times, including one that was a strip sack by T.J. Watt, one of his three on the day, that was recovered in the end zone by L.J. Fort for a touchdown. Joe Haden shadowed one of the NFL’s elite receivers, Julio Jones, holding him to just five receptions for 62 yards, and not allowing him to have his first catch until the fourth quarter.
The Steelers preached starting off strong all week, and they did just that. Conner accounted for 72 of 78 yards on the opening drive, capping it off with a one-yard touchdown run. Conner had a 29-yard catch-and-run, aided by a nice block by Vance McDonald. He followed that up with a 30-yard run. Conner looked like he was going to score on a five-yard run, but the call was reviewed and he came up one-yard short of the goal line. He went airborne on the next play, scoring from one-yard out. Chris Boswell’s extra point went wide right, giving the Steelers an early, 6-0 lead.
After a defensive stop, which was aided by L.J. Fort sacking Matt Ryan, the offense went back to work. Roethlisberger marched them 97 yards down the field, capping it with an 18-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster. Conner had a 16-yard run on the drive, with a spin move and carrying defenders on this back. The Steelers also benefited from a defensive pass interference call against Duke Riley on third-and-10, a costly 38-yard penalty. The touchdown put the Steelers up, 13-0, at the end of the first quarter.
The Falcons came firing back in the second quarter. Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu for a 43-yard touchdown, capping an eight-play, 75-yard drive and cutting into the lead, 13-7.
The Falcons cut further into the lead on a 13-play, 50-yard field goal drive, with Matt Bryant hitting from 47-yards to close the gap to 13-10.
A golden opportunity to extend the lead was thwarted when Roethlisberger’s pass, intended for Antonio Brown, was intercepted by Damontae Kazee in the end zone, sending the Steelers into halftime up, 13-10.
After a defensive stop, the offense went back to work, and meant business. Roethlisberger hit Brown for 15 yards, and Conner continued to be hot with carries of five and nine yards. Roethlisberger connected with Conner, who broke four tackles before finally being taken down after a 28-yard catch and run. Xavier Grimble pulled in a nine-yard reception, and Roethlisberger put the exclamation point on the drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Brown, extending the lead to 20-10.
Special teams came up huge late in the third quarter. Roosevelt Nix blocked Matt Bosher’s punt, and the Steelers took over at the Falcons 18-yard line. And the offense took advantage. Roethlisberger hit Jesse James for 14 yards and went to Conner for a two-yard touchdown, pulling ahead 27-10.
The Falcons fought back on their next drive. Julio Jones pulled in his first reception of the game, an 18-yarder, and Ito Smith ran it in from two-yards, to cut the lead to 27-17.
Not to be outdone, Roethlisberger went to work. Roethlisberger hit Brown for 15 yards, and Conner took it for six yards and added a four-yard run. Roethlisberger aired it out for Brown, who caught it in stride and took it 47-yards for the touchdown, extending the lead to 34-17.
It was the defense’s turn to get in on the fun next. Watt sacked Ryan, recording his third sack of the day, forcing a fumble that was recovered by L.J. Fort in the end zone for a touchdown, putting the icing on the cake for the 41-17 win.
First Quarter: Steelers 6, Falcons 0
Scoring Play: James Conner one-yard touchdown run. Extra point wide right.
Scoring Summary: 8-78-4:16
First Quarter: Steelers 13, Falcons 0
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger 18-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Scoring Summary: 11-97-4:38
Second Quarter: Steelers 13, Falcons 7
Scoring Play: Matt Ryan to Mohamed Sanu 43-yard touchdown.
Scoring Summary: 8-75-4:16
Second Quarter: Steelers 13, Falcons 10
Scoring Play: Matt Bryant 47-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 13-50-5:56
Third Quarter: Steelers 20, Falcons 10
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger nine-yard pass to Antonio Brown.
Scoring Summary: 12-85-7:06
Third Quarter: Steelers 27, Falcons 10
Scoring Play: James Conner two-yard touchdown run.
Scoring Summary: 3-18-0:58
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 27, Falcons 17
Scoring Play: Ito Smith two-yard touchdown run.
Scoring Summary: 9-75-4:11
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 34, Falcons 17
Scoring Play: Ben Roethlisberger 47-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown.
Scoring Summary: 5-75-2:47
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 41, Falcons 17
Scoring Play: L.J. Fort fumble recovery in the end zone.