A "trap game" is probably the best way to describe the Steelers this weekend as they head to the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons.
Recent history and the trend that the 2014 Steelers have followed should give anyone some serious doubt about their chances Sunday afternoon. The Steelers, unlike their division foes, have not been able to take advantage of a weak, NFC South. Pittsburgh is a disappointing 1-2 against the division. A last minute loss against Tampa Bay and a defeat with "garbage time" points against the Saints, are the only two losses at home this season. A Sunday night win over the Carolina Panthers back on September 21 is the lone win over an NFC South team.
The Steelers always seem to follow a big win with a deflating loss against a lesser opponent. After that victory against the Panthers, the Steelers followed it up with the loss to the Buccaneers. An emotional win over division rival Baltimore on Sunday night was dampened by a loss to the lowly, New York Jets the very next week and more recently, a Monday night comeback win in Tennessee was spoiled six days later when the Steelers lost to New Orleans at home. It has been a roller coaster at times for Pittsburgh. Could be the same story this Sunday after winning a key division game against the Bengals.
Just to highlight how bad the NFC South is, the Falcons are 5-8 and are sitting in first place in their division with the tiebreaker over the Saints. Even the Panthers (4-8-1) have a shot at the title. A win by Pittsburgh guarantees that if Atlanta were to win the NFC South, it would be with a losing record. A 6-10 record could still get the Falcons the division title.
Recent meetings between these two teams have been close. Really close.
The last three games have all gone to overtime, with both teams going 1-1-1. The game in 2002 resulted in a 34-34 tie at Heinz Field. Four years later, the teams met at the Georgia Dome the year following the Steelers first Super Bowl win in 26 years. The Falcons took that overtime game 41-38. The most recent matchup, which happened in 2010, the year the Steelers appeared in Super Bowl XLV, was a Pittsburgh win at home 15-9. Do not be surprised if this game comes down to the wire on Sunday. Falcons fans better hope Mike Smith does not have a blunder like he did against the Browns.
While the Falcons have some of the worst defensive rankings in the NFL this year (24th in points allowed, last in passing and total yards allowed and 21st in rush yards allowed), Atlanta can be a threat offensively.
Matt Ryan and his wide receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White will pose a threat to the Steelers secondary that has been on its heels that past few games. One that gave up an 80-yard touchdown pass against the Titans, a 67-yard touchdown pass against the Saints, and an 81-yard touchdown pass to the Bengals last week. Obviously, as Mike Tomlin would say, that is not a good trend. Jones, who had a career night against the Packers on Monday night, could cause problems if he is able to play despite a hip injury. Roddy White would fill that void if Jones is not ready to go. It could be a shootout in the Georgia Dome.
With three game remaining, the Steelers are 8-5 and in a tight, division race that will most likely come down to them and the Ravens going for the title. The runner-up probably takes the top wild card spot in the AFC. These final three games for the Steelers (Falcons, Chiefs, Browns) are all winnable and important. Now is the time for Pittsburgh to break this awful trend of dropping games to teams they should be beating.
This game has "trap" written all over it. We will see if Pittsburgh can reverse the trend we've seen from them in 2014.