It’s finally here.Â Kick-off weekend. The Steelers haven’t lost a game kick-off weekend since a loss to the Raiders in 2002.Â This Sunday, when they meet the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field, the Steelers will be looking for their 8th straight kick-off weekend win, which is currently the longest streak in the NFL.
There are a lot of naysayers out there predicting a loss to the Falcons, but I looked at what both teams have to offer and despite Ben’s absence under center, I just can’t see a loss.Â Not unless Arians calls the worst game in football history, or the team comes out and plays like they just don’t care.Â I honestly don’t see either of those options happening.
First, while Dixon may be raw as a starting NFL quarterback with just 13 passes in a regular season game, I think the kid is going to surprise a lot of people.Â Yes, he’s going to be nervous.Â Yes, he’ll probably throw up three times on the sideline before opening kick-off, but don’t let the kid find a rhythm or I predict all the haters will quickly change their tune.Â But let’s be honest, it’s going to be a big day for Rashard Mendenhall and the running game.Â Last year, Mendenhall rushed for 1,108 yards, had 25 receptions and 8 TDs.Â He’ll have an opportunity to really break out on Sunday.Â In addition, the Atlanta defense had some holes last year and while they did their best to fill the gaps over the off-season, they still have some issues.
First of all, their leading sack-master, Jonathan Babineaux will sit out Sunday due to an NFL personal conduct violation (join the club).Â He was their best defensive lineman in 2009 and the backups don’t have quite the experience as Babineaux.Â In 2009, the Falcons were 28th against the pass, allowing 242.1 ypg and 25 TDs.Â They have tried to upgrade their secondary and Dunta Robinson and Thomas DeCoud will play a big role for the Falcons.
The Falcons best bet is to try to confuse Dixon and not let him get in a groove.Â But the Steelers O-line isn’t looking so bad with rookie Maurkice Pouncey starting in his first NFL game Sunday.Â The Falcons need to bring their A-game and play tough for a full 4 quarters if they want to win this game.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons O-line is in for an uncomfortable and rough day.Â All day.Â Sam Baker will have to stop Harrison all day long.Â Many said Harrison lost a little juice last year, but there are so many defensive weapons back in action for the Steelers, including Aaron Smith, that the Falcons are going to take a pounding all day long.Â Last year, even with the poor 4th quarter showing, the Steelers defense was 2nd in NFL sacks, 3rd against the run, and 5th in yards allowed (305.3 ypg).Â In other words, you can’t sleep against the Steelers D – and with Troy back and healthy, Bryant McFadden returning as CB and as I already mentioned, a healthy Aaron Smith – the Steelers have a defense that is likely to make it back to the top spot.Â Matt Ryan might see a lot more of Heinz Field than he thought he would. Woodley, Timmons, Smith and Harrison will be gunning for him to view the field from his back, believe me.
So, all this to say, I don’t see the Steelers losing this game.Â They have a chip on their shoulder, they have something to prove.Â It’s their game to lose.Â Let’s see what we’re dealing with this season.
I predict Steelers 20-Falcons 14.
Let’s go Steelers!