There was a little intrigue this week regarding whether the Falcons would play starters against the Steelers, especially with Pittsburgh mulling doing just that. The fundamental question was whether the team wanted a final tune-up for their starting lineups on offense and defense after a penalty-marred stint against the Bengals. The answer appears to be: Nah.
Per The Athletic’s Josh Kendall, who cites a league source, the Falcons will indeed park their starters against the Steelers. Arthur Smith and company clearly believe the risk of injury outweighs any benefits starters would receive from another drive of two, and I understand that viewpoint given how many ailments and injured reserve stints the team is already dealing with. They clearly believe the penalties were something they can work on in practice and still be good to go against a banged-up Panthers squad in Week 1 of the regular season, and we’ll have to hope the team is ready and roaring when that day comes.
As Kendall notes, this makes this final preseason game an even more extended audition for roster hopefuls like Xavier Malone, Josh Miles and Jalen Mayfield, and DeMarcco Hellams, among many others. If Mike Tomlin follows through on playing starters, the players who get on the field first will have a real test of their abilities, given Pittsburgh’s talent.
Settle in for a reserve showcase this evening and we’ll see who distinguishes themselves with roster spots and practice squad slots on the line.