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Game One: Mendenhall races the Steelers to a 15-9 OT Win over Falcons

The Steelers had their struggles with the talented Atlanta Falcons, but in the end the defense came up big in overtime, and Rashard Mendenhall came up even bigger, as the Black and Gold won 15-9 to open the season.

The defense, which had faltered so many times late in games a year ago, came up with a big turnover as Troy Polamalu got a pick that set the Steelers up at the Atlanta 30 with 1:40 left. The Steelers gained 9 yards on three plays to set up Jeff Reed with a 40-yard field goal attempt with :39 seconds left.

The kick was no good, and both teams went into overtime for the third straight time between the two franchises. Atlanta starting at their 9 after a penalty, got to the 24 before a hold against James Harrison on third down killed any shot they had.

Michael Koenen’s punt only went to midfield, setting up the heroics for Mendenhall. On the Steelers first play, the Steelers workhorse back took it off tackle, going 50 yards almost untouched into the end zone to end the game 2:35 into the OT.

Mendenhall ended with 120 yards on 22 carries, outshining Falcons back Michael Turner, who ended with 42 yards on 19 carries.

Dennis Dixon was shaky in his first start at QB for the Steelers, going 18-for-26 for 236 yards with no touchdowns and a pick. He was also sacked three times, a couple times which killed a possible drive late in the fourth quarter as the team was trying to get in field goal range.

Matt Ryan was 27-for-44 for 252 yards, he was sacked twice and was also picked. His favorite target by far was Roddy White, who had 13 grabs for 111 yards.

The Steelers went up 3-0 early on Jeff Reed’s 52-yard field goal, but then were shut out for the rest of the half. The D stood strong against the Falcons, and after Reed missed a 55-yard field goal, the Falcons got their only points of the half on Matt Bryant’s 49-yard field goal on the last play of the half.

The teams each traded two more field goals in regulation, as neither club could do enough to get in the end zone.

After seeing the way the Steelers lost so many games late in 2009, it was good to see them able to close the door in the fourth quarter and overtime, and it was great to see Polamalu come up with a big play. The D gets a big thumbs up if Reed makes the field goal that should have won them the game.

As for Dixon, he was not all that effective, but had a few nice throws to Hines Ward, who had 6 grabs for 108 yards. Mike Wallace also had a big grab for 52 yards. Overall though, Dixon needs to do more, as the team was 4-for-14 in third downs, and quite a few of those fell on him.

The Steelers are up on top of the division after one week, as the Bengals lost in New England, and the Browns, who huffed and puffed into the season about getting better, lost to the 3-win Bucs in Tampa Bay. The Steelers go to play a tough Titans team in Tennessee next Sunday.

Matt Loede has been in the sports media for over 16 years, with experience covering the MLB, NBA, and NFL. On Sunday’s during football season, you can hear Matt on national networks like Fox Sports Radio, Associated Press, and others. Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio, Matt studies and talks football inside and out, and is anxious to share his thoughts and comments with readers on a daily basis.



  1. mark

    September 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    DD was a nervous QB today. I can understand that, but why wasnt he using his legs?? The 2 sacks late in the 4th were unacceptable. Run, roll-out, throw it away!! He was terrible on 3rd down and he MUST be better next week and everyweek he is playing.Defense was good but the “cushion” is horrid. Roddy White?? Ok, he is good. But THAT good? Gay’s hands need some stick-um,Ryan Clark needs to take better angles,and I saw a few plays in the 4th qrt where Ike Taylor could not even be seen on the T.V screen!! Play that far off a WR? WOW! My friends and I were laughing at my observation. O-line played well,and Jeff Reed should remember this game when he goes in to discuss his contract! That miss was atrocious and not easily forgotten. At least not by me.

  2. Pingback: “NFL Week 1, Falcons Vs. Steelers: Dennis Dixon Takes The Reins” and related posts |

  3. Mike

    September 12, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    you can’t take everything away on defense. i will gladly let roddy white catch 13 balls for 110 yards as long as they are all 12 or 13 yard outs. Mcfadden was on him the whole day, didn’t miss a tackle and played great in run support. the steelers have always given up those short passes to the sidelines. better 13/110 than 6/110 with a couple of big plays. the falcons have a very good offense and the steelers kept them out of the endzone. job well done.

  4. George H

    September 12, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Definitely cant complain about the defense today; the Falcons have a very good offense and were kept to 0 tds. What was also impressive was completely shutting down Turner. He wasnt able to get anything on the ground all day. Having Troy back was a thing of beauty, who didnt expect to see Troy make that big int. The linebackers played great all day as well, causing havoc all around the field. Overall,a job well done defensively.

    I have a few concerns about the offense however. Obviously Dixon looked a little rough around the edges today; he had some ups and downs. The first half was a very limited offense committed to pounding the run against a stacked box. It was very predictable and I couldn’t understand why the offense wasn’t rolling Dixon out of the pocket on a bootleg or play action. Second half Dixon was able to open it up a little bit and start making plays. However, I kept having the underlining feeling that if Ben was in the game it would of been a blow out, but thats not the case and the Steelers need to keep trucking along with Dixon.

  5. mark

    September 13, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Guys, I honestly wasnt “complaining” too much about the defense. Sure, the defense was stout yesterday. Especially against the run. Statistics do NOT win games though. If the Falcons had gone for the 1st down instead of the chip-shot tying FG at the end, odds are they score a TD and win the game. Then what would the stats show? The LB’s were great yesterday, the D-line was typically active and Troy was Troy. My concern will stay with the CB’s. They were good yesterday, not great. That cushion is mind-boggling!!
    As far as Dixon is concerned, he was good. He could have been better had he used his legs a bit more. Or, been asked to use his legs more? His nerves were apparent and he threw 2 other passes besides the pick that should have been picks. I did NOT expect him to “light-it up” yesterday, but I am confident he could be much more of a weapon for an offense that was sputtering at times because of Dixon’s nerves/inexperience.

    • George H

      September 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

      You cant play the “what if” game in respects tp the 4th down fg late in the game. The right call was made, ATL wasnt gaining anything on the ground all day.

      • mark

        September 14, 2010 at 1:24 pm

        George, I agree. The right call was to take the points. But the “what-if” scenarios play an important factor in planning for the future. What-ifs are only pertinent AFTER a game. On opening day, on the road, it wouldnt have been a HUGE surprise had the Falcons tried to score a TD from that field position. Had they done that (what-if) what will the Steelers do in the future in a similar situation? What will the Falcons do in a similar situation? Preperation based on what-ifs.

  6. DrGeorge

    September 13, 2010 at 11:30 am

    I was more than heartened by the Steelers defense; they stuffed a good team. The age-old mantra ‘Defense wins games’ remains true. Yesterday, the defense won the game.

    The ability of the team to rebound from adversity also deserves recognition: Jonathan Scott replaced Starks and acquitted himself well; after Dixon’s interceptions and several near interceptions, he settled down and played reasonably well; and finally the Steelers were able to run effectively on short yardage and control the tempo of the game and the clock thanks to solid O-line blocking. It was a grinder of a football game, but it’s going to be like that until Ben returns.

    Arians continues to call mystifying plays at times, like deep outs for a QB who has trouble seeing over his own linemen. Dixon’s interception came on a pass play that should have been a run; at that point in the game, Atlanta’s defensive front was looking weary, and our line was taking over and pushing them back consistently. The calls often made Dixon’s jobs harder than it had to be.

    In fairness to Arians, however, I will also note his surprising and successful use of the ‘gadgets’ or ‘trick’ plays that Wisenhut and McClatchy made a Steelers trademark in prior years. We have the personnel to do much more of that, and should. Misdirection plays kept Atlanta off-balance all afternoon, so I must conclude that Arians has gotten the message, even if he doesn’t like the orders.

    My colleagues above have analyzed the game correctly. For the first game of the season under an inexperienced QB, I say the Steelers did just fine. The team has lots of room for improvement, and I’m betting it will do just that. It wasn’t pretty to watch, but it was good to see — if you get my drift.

  7. jay

    September 13, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Any news on Hampton anybody???????? I mean, it’s good to see that blog sites, such as this, are reporting the news before the actual news sites, such as the Post Gazette, ( in reference to this site reporting on Max Starks’ injury and the POst Gazette not)—what about Casey Hampton and his hammy?!? I know Starks is important but at least Scott stepped up and played well and we still have a budding Hills on the Roster not to mention that rookie form Tenn who is on the PUP list…behind Hampton there is Hoke and then…….

  8. Pingback: Flashback: Steelers Top Falcons 15-9 in 2010 Season Opener - Steelers Gab

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