The Steelers, much like the Falcons, have been inconsistent this season, but Dick LeBeau's defense always presents a challenge. A few Falcons spoke with the media this week about what they are expecting from Pittsburgh's defense and how they'll be preparing to face them.
Ryan had high praise for the Steelers' defense. "Pittsburgh's defense is very good. They present a lot of different looks," Ryan said. "They've got a great blitz package, so you have to work really hard in the film room and on the practice field to be able to get the communication where you want it in terms of pass protection and the run game, and I think guys have done a good job early this week of getting a jump start on the week and starting to get ourselves prepared for Sunday. But it's one of those things - I think this time of the year, guys know how to get themselves right and know how to prepare, and we're going to do a great job with that this week."
Steven Jackson said that communication will be the most important thing for the Falcons' offense on Sunday. "It's big for us to communicate. Our center, quarterback, myself - everyone that's in protection, we need to be all on the same page, make sure we're seeing things the same way," Jackson said. "Dick LeBeau has done a great job over the years of confusing guys and making sure that his defensive teams are very heady and smart about what they do and how they execute their defense."
Rookie center James Stone also emphasized that communication will be key for the offensive line. This week is going to be a very mental week because we know all the different things they can do and how, like they say, [LeBeau is] the godfather of confusion," Stone said. "So I feel like identification is going to be very key this week and make sure we ID everything and we're all on the same page."
Why is LeBeau's defense so good? Ryan says it's ultimately because they have players who fit the scheme and understand it. "Well, they've got good players. They have good players that fit their scheme really well," Ryan said. "I think probably they've had as much continuity as any team in the NFL as far as staying in the same defense, staying in the same scheme and getting players in there that fit their scheme. I think they do that really, really well. They give you a lot of different looks. They're very multiple in what they do, but they're very sound. I think Dick, he's done a great job of teaching that defense, getting those guys to understand that defense, and they've got a handful of guys who have played in that defense for a long time and understand adjustments to motions, adjustments to different formations. They know their defense really well. But at the end of the day, it comes down to the players. They've got good players."
As far as the Falcons' offense is concerned, Ryan says they need to get, and keep, momentum for four quarters. "We've got to continue to play at a high level. I think there were times in the game this past week that we did that," Ryan said. "We just need to be more consistent for four quarters, but it all starts up front for us. We've got to try to win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and that's where, as a team, that's most important."
The Steelers have a fan base that travels well and they also have fans all over the country dating back to the height of their popularity during the Steel Curtain days. Matt Ryan's not concerned about the Georgia Dome being taken over. "We've got great fans here in Atlanta," Ryan said, "and we've got great support from across the city, and I'm sure that they'll be out there on Sunday loud and proud."