Steelers narrowly defeat Falcons, 17-13

Posted on Aug 22 2017 - 2:13pm by Rachael McKriger
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Photo of James Conner courtesy of Don Wright/Associated Press.

With Le’Veon Bell continuing to hold out from preseason training and games, James Conner is using this time to shine.

The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Atlanta Falcons for their first preseason game at Heinz Field.

Heinz Field isn’t unfamiliar territory for Conner. The running back spent his college days with the University of Pittsburgh, who also use Heinz Field for home games.

Back on familiar grounds, Conner rushed the ball 20 times for 98 yards. His longest run was for 19 yards, and he did not score a touchdown. As a receiver, he only made one catch for three yards.

Starting the game at quarterback for the Steelers was Joshua Dobbs. Dobbs day wasn’t as productive as Conner’s as he threw an interception into the arms of Quincy Mauger, a defensive back. Dobbs also completed 10/19 passes for only 70 yards.

“I thought he did some things well,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “I thought he did some things he can improve on. We don’t like the carelessness of the ball. There were a couple of instances where I would like to see him throw the ball away. It was a good learning experience for him.”

Bart Houston eventually entered the game for the Steelers, and threw for 24 yards on 5/9 completed passes.

Houston did throw a touchdown pass to Justin Hunter. Hunter finished the day with three receptions for 16 yards.

The Steelers also had a 42-yard field goal converted in the second quarter from Chris Boswell. Another touchdown came from Trey Williams, who ran back a punt return 64 yards to the end zone.

“He made a nice play,” said Tomlin. “I think the interesting thing is you are talking about adding to your portfolio, what you are capable of doing. I thought he did a good job of judgment, decision making and fielding the ball today for a guy with very little experience in that area.”

Boswell had 2/2 extra points converted, as well.

As for the Falcons, they scored the first touchdown of the game in the first quarter. Running back Terron Ward rushed 5-yards for a touchdown. Meanwhile, kicker Matt Bryant converted one extra point attempt, and two field goals from 23 and 26 yards out.

On defense for the Steelers, linebacker Anthony Chickillo recorded four tackles, leading the defense. Safety Jordan Dangerfield caught two interceptions from quarterbacks Matt Simms and Alek Torgersen.

Chickillo led the defense in sacks, with two. Meanwhile, Roy Philon and Farrington Huguenin both recorded a single sack.

“We just want to be as aggressive as we can be, get to the ball as fast as we can, stop the ball as fast as we can,” cornerback Artie Burns said. “That’s something we put an emphasis on, something ‘Mike T’ (head coach Mike Tomlin) put an emphasis on and something we have to get accomplished.”

Notably for the Steelers, the game also included the return of Martavis Bryant.

Bryant missed the entire 2016 season due to a violation of the NFL’s Performing Enhancement Drug Policy.

On Sunday, Bryant caught two passes for 20 yards.

“I hadn’t seen a lot of him. I wanted to get to know him,” said Tomlin. “I thought he represented himself well, particularly from a conditioning standpoint. You can’t underscore that element of that. I know he is a professional athlete, generally he is in shape, but he hadn’t played a lot of football. To be able to execute the number of snaps he did is encouraging.”

As for an injury report, the Steelers noted that

Javon Hargrave left the game with a concussion, while Steven Johnson left with a hamstring injury.

The Steelers will continue their preseason slate of games at Heinz Field against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. The game is slated for a 7:30 p.m. kick off time.

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