Several defensive players talked to the media this week about preparing to take on a Steelers offense that has been inconsistent, but has a lot of talent and a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger who is difficult to stop and has a knack for extending plays.
Kroy Biermann talked a little bit about Atlanta's defensive plan to continue improving. "We have the same plan every week. It necessarily hasn't always played out as we would have liked," Biermann said, "but the plan's always been the same, and that's to get better every week, to put our best foot forward and keep improving and keep putting good games together. And that's what we've got to keep doing and stay focused."
After the Packers game, Desmond Trufant deflected questions about his individual performance on Monday against Green Bay and insisted that what mattered was that the defense as a whole had not played well. Trufant said this week that the defense has to do their part. "The offense, they did their part. Special teams did their part, and so we've got to do our part," Trufant said. "I mean, that's the only way we're going to get to where we want to get. We're lucky, we're blessed that we're in the position that we are, still to have a chance at the playoffs, so we've got to take advantage of it."
On Roethlisberger, Kroy Biermann acknowledged how good he is. "He's obviously been doing it for a little while and he's had some really good success, and had the most success a quarterback can have, and that's winning Super Bowls," Biermann said. "So he's obviously good, and that just puts pressure on us to be on top of our game, be on top of our fundamentals, and play sound football and put together a good game."
Dwight Lowery agreed that Roethlisberger's skill set will be a challenge for the Atlanta defense on Sunday. "He presents a lot of challenges. He can make plays, not just running the ball, but also in the passing game as well," Lowery said. "He's been playing very great the past couple of weeks. We're going to have our hands full with him."
The secondary has to work in tandem with the pass rush to keep the Steelers' offense in check, and Dwight Lowery said the defensive backs are prepared to cover for as long as they need to in order to prevent the Steelers from scoring. "Whether it's for three seconds, whether it's for eight seconds, ten seconds or whatever, we have to cover for as long as it takes in order to prevent them from scoring," Lowery said. "Nobody cares how long they're holding the ball if they're scoring points, you know? And it's up to us in the secondary to prevent them from scoring, and if they're able to extend plays, then we have to extend our coverage and make plays on the ball when they're there."
Rookie safety Dezmen Southward echoed Lowery in terms of being prepared to cover receivers longer than usual against a quarterback like Roethlisberger. "As a defense, up front we have to try and get pressure on him, try when we get our hands on him to get him down," Lowery said. "And in the back end, we have to cover a little longer. We understand that some plays will be extended, so maybe instead of covering for four or five seconds you're covering for ten."
The guys up front emphasized that they have to do whatever it takes to actually bring Roethlisberger down. Ra'Shede Hageman hopes the front seven will be able to force Roethlisberger into making mistakes upon which Atlanta's opportunistic defense can capitalize. "At the end of the day, if you get to him, you've got to keep your legs moving. He's definitely a big quarterback, and he definitely is able to throw the ball with people on him," Hageman said. "But at the end of the day, you just come in with a good game plan, just kind of put some pressure on him, hit him a couple of times, and I feel like he'll be able to throw an interception or just to make a mental error."
Prince Shembo went to the film to figure out the best way to handle Roethlisberger. "Got to hit him. You've got to bring your pads, do what Courtney Upshaw did earlier in the season," said Shembo. "I saw it on film. He hit him right in the chest. I don't know how he got a flag on that. But it was a clean hit, so that's what we've got to do. Just bring that same kind of impact."
Dwight Lowery was asked what Atlanta's defense needs to do against a Steelers team that hung 25 points on the Bengals in the fourth quarter last week, and Lowery's response was blunt. "Not doing what we've done in the past in the fourth quarter. We've got to be better in the fourth quarter," Lowery said. "We've got to be better when our opponent has to score."
But Lowery didn't limit this to the fourth quarter. He feels the defense has to be better across the board. "We've just got to be better, period," he said. "We can't really worry about what the Steelers have done - we can't worry about what they've done in the past as far as the fourth quarter goes. We've got to focus on executing and not letting the moment get too big, because we haven't done well in that area, but it's starting to get crunch time. It's starting to get to where teams are separating themselves from each other, and if we want to be a part of that in a positive manner, we have to execute better."
It's very possible that the Falcons will be missing strong safety William Moore, who is recovering from an ankle injury suffered on Monday against Green Bay. Moore is listed as questionable for Sunday's game, and his ability to play will be a game-time decision by the team doctors. On Moore's injury, Lowery said the team has to be ready to go regardless. "First, you feel for him. He gives his heart and soul to the game, to his teammates, so it's disappointing as his teammate to see that," Lowery said. "As far as the football team goes, we have to move on whether he's there or not. The game's still going to be played, and we've got to prepare to the best of our ability. That's all we can do."
Kroy Biermann, for one, is looking forward to being back in the Georgia Dome. "It's going to be good. We always enjoy our fans, we always enjoy our home turf," Biermann said. "It can't get any better than home games, so we're looking forward to it."