The Steelers beat the Falcons, 24-0

ATLANTA – It was the perfect end to a perfect pre-season for the Steelers.

Not only did they lead 3-0, they won all their matches in convincing fashion, but the first-team attack added two more goals to their tally, making that group 5-5 going into the 2023 warm-up.

Incidentally, the Steelers got through this process without major injury to their front line player, which is probably the most important part of that equation.

Nagy Harris and Jaylen Warren capped the possessions of the first-team offense in court Thursday night with touchdown runs as the Steelers made short work of the Atlanta Falcons here at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, 24-0, to close out the pre-season.

Kenny Pickett completed all four of his passes in this game for 86 yards to help set up touchdown runs by Harris and Warren.

That left Pickett 13-of-15 for 199 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the preseason, a perfect rating of 158.3.

Although Atlanta didn’t play any of their starting players, the Steelers felt it was important to put in a good performance.

“It was really solidifying the pre-season and finishing strong,” said Beckett. “Going out there and putting the points on the board was really our goal. We went 2-for-2 on touchdowns, so that’s a really good sign.”

Pickett connected with Diontae Johnson for a 33-yard gain on third and fifth, Johnson hit it down the left sideline, then completed a 35-yard pass to George Pickens down the right sideline to the Atlanta 1 to set up Harris’ score to cap off a 92-yard drive.

The catch was what became Mark Pickens, reaching for top cornerback Natron Brooks to pull in the pass while twisting his body to keep his feet in bounds.

The Steelers defense got a triple on Atlanta’s ensuing possession, as TJ Watt — who saw limited duty — picked up a second sack to put the Falcons behind the chains after Ellandon Roberts’ 4-yard tackle for the loss on first down.

Calvin Austin III returned the ensuing penalty 21 yards to the Atlanta 29, and Beckett and his pals made quick work of the Falcons again. He connected with Harris for a 16-yard gain on the screen, then Harris gained 5 yards to put the ball on the Atlanta 8.

Warren then scored with a giant hole punch on the right side of the line to make it 14-0.

As has been the case throughout this pre-season, the offense, defense, and special teams have worked hand in hand.

“That’s the way it’s supposed to work,” said linebacker Alex Highsmith. “We’re supposed to stop them so the offense can get a good field position. The offense does what they do and goes down there and scores. Overall, it was a team win, all three stages were good.”

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had seen enough of his first team offense at that point and substituted in his second unit.

It was almost there, as the defense got three more touchdowns and Mitch Trubisky led a pair of scoring kicks, the first two setting up a 38-yard field goal by Chris Boswell at the end of the first quarter, and the second a 5-yard touchdown run by Anthony McFarland that made the score 24-0.

At that point, the Steelers had outscored the Falcons 220-8 in total yardage. They held a 253-55 advantage over Atlanta in total yardage in the first half.

The Falcons finally put together a sustained drive to open the second half, but cornerback Joey Porter Jr. and linebacker Mark Robinson forced a Carlos Washington fumble at the Pittsburgh 5, as Kenny Robinson hit a safety to end the Atlanta threat and keep the shutout out though. He came against the Atlanta Backups.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Steelers cornerback Patrick Peterson, a 13-year veteran. “They’re pros. And it’s their fault because they didn’t have their guys there. That’s my first preseason shutout and second shutout of my career. I had one against the Giants in maybe 2020 or maybe (2019). That was pretty cool ‘anytime it can get Defending a knockout, it always pays off because that’s the thing you always shoot for, which is to keep guys out of the end zone, and that’s what we’ve been able to do.”

Watt, Roberts, Toby Ndukwe, Quincy Roche and rookie Nick Herbig all had sacks for the Steelers. Fourth round draft pick Case Herbig gave a team-best 3.5 in the preseason, while Case Roche forced a Steelers fumble before the two-minute warning.

McFarland led the Steelers’ rushing offense, which yielded 175 yards, and 10 carries for 55 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown run.

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