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Falcons vs. Steelers: a look at the series history going into 2022

The Steelers have bludgeoned Atlanta in this series.

Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick... SetNumber: X76880 TK1 R3

The Falcons gear for up for an inter-conference matchup against a team that has been a boogeyman for them throughout their history — the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Atlanta has gone a pitiful 2-14-1 in the face of the Steel Curtain throughout their history. That’s the second-worst mark in their existence against any other franchise, topped only by the 2-15 record they have against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Steelers are one of the legacy franchises that had already been in existence for over three decades when the Falcons had their inaugural season in 1966, but they had one playoff appearance in that time and had never won anything. Pittsburgh won the first two meetings against the newly-minted Falcons, in 1966 and 1968, before the Falcons got back a victory in 1970.

Following three consecutive losing seasons to start his coaching tenure, Chuck Noll put it all together in 1972 and set his franchise onto the path of becoming the dynasty of the ‘70s. From 1972-1979, the Steelers made the playoffs every single season, won their division seven times, achieved seven double digit win seasons, and won four Super Bowls, going 14-4 in playoff games in the process.

Pittsburgh remained a good team throughout the ‘80s, went back to being a contender in the ‘90s and then won two more Super Bowls in the mid-2000s. In the process, they beat the Falcons nine consecutive times after their defeat in 1970, before the electric young Mike Vick finally had some success by leading the Birds to a tie in 2002 and to an overtime victory in 2006. Vick threw four touchdown passes in the fantastic back and forth affair that the Falcons won 41-38 at the Georgia Dome in that latter matchup.

Despite being Atlanta’s winningest quarterback ever, Matt Ryan did not have any success against the Steelers, losing all three of his matchups in 2010, 2014, and 2018.

These teams would have met in Super Bowl 51 had the Steelers beaten the Patriots in the 2016 AFC Championship Game, but unfortunately that did not come to fruition.

Last Matchup

The Steelers and Falcons had gotten off to rocky starts in a season where each expected to find themselves back in the playoffs, with Pittsburgh at 1-2-1 and Atlanta at 1-3 going into the matchup in the Steel City. Atlanta had just come off of a last-second heartbreaking defeat against the Bengals, and had thus far lost defensive starters in Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett, Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen to injury.

James Conner did almost all of the work on a nine-play opening drive, which culminated with him punching it in for a touchdown before Ben Roethlisberger connected with Juju Smith-Schuster to take a 13-0 lead right before the end of the first quarter.

Matt Ryan gave Atlanta some life by hitting Mohamed Sanu on a 43-yard touchdown and then putting together a field goal drive, and the Falcons actually went into the break down just 13-10 and feeling good after Damontae Kazee picked off Big Ben in the end zone.

In the second half, however, the wheels came flying off. The Steelers put together three straight touchdown drives, two to Antonio Brown, and just overwhelmed Atlanta’s thin defense. The cherry on top was T.J. Watt’s strip sack of Ryan which was recovered for a touchdown, making it 41-17.

The Falcons won their next three games after this one to get back to .500 at 4-4 but then lost five straight before proceeding to end the season at 7-9.

This was the first of six straight Pittsburgh wins, giving them a 7-2-1 record which they squandered with four losses in their next five games. They finished the year 9-6-1 but missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.