When Pre-Season Goes Wrong: A Falcons-Steelers Recap

The Falcons drop another pre-season game. Pitchforks and torches are seen on Twitter, Facebook and blogs across the land. Hands are wrung.

Look, if you're going to worry, you're going to worry. The Falcons gave you ammunition last night, looking listless on defense and careless on offense. I won't dispute that the team has played in a less-than-stellar fashion the last couple of weeks, and the Steelers made the Falcons look more than a little clownish.

As long as the Falcons learn from their mistakes in this game, I'm so far from panic I can't see it with binoculars. Pre-season failure, after all, is a notoriously poor indicator of in-season success. So once again, the end result isn't all that important, even if it feels like it after watching the Falcons get shamed by the Steelers once more. Damn those Steelers.

Still, there's nuggets of knowledge to be gleaned from individual performances, as always. There's even a list of highlights, because the Falcons are a good football team who play good football for stretches even in bad games. Hit the jump with me and we'll take a look.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Matt Ryan threw a ton of passes (42 in all), and looked damn good doing it after some early hiccups. Ryan's arm strength and his rapport with Roddy White and Julio Jones shouldn't be in question after this one.

    I think the coaching staff's mission in this one, given the Steelers' injured secondary, was to get Ryan comfortable and throwing early and often. If I'm right, mission accomplished.
  • Your mileage may vary, but I thought Jacquizz Rodgers impressed again. He's not totally where he needs to be in terms of blocking yet--which is understandable, given his 5'6" frame--but he did pile up 38 yards on seven carries and managed a couple of nice catches. Promising future for him.
  • Roddy White had been quiet the first couple of pre-season games, but he showed us why his name can send cornerbacks diving through plate glass windows. Eight catches, 101 yards and a touchdown is vintage, mid-season Roddy, and he ran his trademark flawless routes all night long. I couldn't be more excited to see him during the season
  • Julio Jones and Ryan misfired a handful of times--at points, Ryan seemed locked onto him--but the end result was a nice five receptions for 59 yards. He continues to impress.
  • While we're praising every receiver I can think of, let's give Harry Douglas his due. HD Digital in 2011 looks worlds better than his younger, 2010 self.
  • The first-team offensive line seems to be gelling. Matt Ryan had plenty of time to throw and there was some nice blocking up front, even from Joe Hawley. I'm liking the trend here.
  • What can you say about Matt Bryant that hasn't been said? He's such a consistent killer when it comes to field goals that he makes the Terminator look like an elementary school science project.
  • There's the Eric Weems we all know and love. He looked shifty and potent on his 48 yard punt return last night.
  • Jonathan Babineaux gets another sack. It's the hit sequel to last week's game, and further proof that Babs is a terrifying man. 
  • The team's interior pass rush looks sharp. Vance Walker also picked up a sack, and while the defensive ends for the first team didn't get much in the way of results on the stat sheets, they opened things up.
  • Darrin Walls didn't get picked on or called out tonight, which qualifies as a success given how the secondary played overall.
  • Shann Schillinger forced a fumble. The Irish Inferno looks like a decent backup, at least.

LOWLIGHTS

  • That backup offensive line didn't do Chris Redman any favors, but after a promising start, he completed less than half of his passes and threw a pick against the Steelers' backups. He's still one of the better backups in the league, but this was a bad game.
  • If the Falcons carry four backs, the fourth one doesn't look like he'll come from the currently constructed roster. Gartrell Johnson continued to look lost as a runner, Antone Smith mixed one nice catch with some poor running and UDFA Philip Sylvester ran for seven yards and then promptly fumbled the ball away. None of these guys are a threat to Rodgers' job, and at this rate they're barely threats to open roster spots.
  • Guys like Andy Strickland and Brandyn Harvey badly needed to show something to stick as a sixth receiver, something the Falcons aren't necessarily inclined to carry. Instead, Harvey went catchless and Strickland didn't show much. Unfortunately, one or both are probably getting cut completely before the season starts.
  • Matt Bosher has the punting and kickoff job mostly sewed up in advance of the season, but he did not impress in this one. Averaging only 35 yards a punt and failing to get any touchbacks, Bosher undoubtedly made a few fans pine for Ken Parrish. He'll need to start showing more once the season rolls around...obviously.
  • Ray Edwards more or less disappeared. First game back and all that, but hopefully Big Play Ray can show much more in the weeks ahead.
  • Brent Grimes is a bit of a gambler by nature. You don't get as many picks he has over the last two seasons by playing conservatively, and it's exceedingly difficult to blame the guy for going hard after a pick in a pre-season game.

    But he was unable to get to Antonio Brown on one play and not quite able to make the play the next time Ben Roethlisberger called Brown's number. Not even remotely worried about Grimes, but those were unquestionably lowlights in last night's game.
  • To spread the blame around a little bit, Thomas DeCoud was way out of position on the first Brown pass. It was not clear to me that Grimey was even supposed to be tight on Brown at that moment, but it was clear that #28 should have been closer. Again, not worried, but worth observing.
  • The whole secondary just kind of let Ben Roethlisberger have his way with them. I'll hold off on the obvious jokes.

THE WRAPUP

Game MVP: Probably Ryan, who did had a sharp game overall. Given the overall team performance in this one, though, you could make a reasonable argument for a half-dozen guys, or none at all.

Game Theme Song: There's a lot of rain pounding my roof right now, so let's go with that.

One Thing To Take Away: The Falcons have issues to fix, but it's still just a sloppy pre-season. Time to be concerned about specific things, but not the team as a whole.

Next Week: It's the mighty Baltimore Ravens. in a battle of Matt Ryan versus Joe Flacco. I'm sure you won't hear about that 600 times in the next week. Check out Baltimore Beatdown for more.

Final Word: DamnableSteelers.

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