Opponents on Steelers

Falcons are talking about Kenny, T.J. and Cam

The Steelers take on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Mercedes Benz Stadium, the first time the two teams have meet since the 2018 season in Pittsburgh, a 41-17 Steelers win.

A lot of the names have changed for the Steelers since then, especially on offense where none of the skill players who touched the ball are still on the team.

On the defensive side of the ball, though, there are still some familiar faces, including linebacker T.J. Watt and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, who are among those the Falcons weighed in on this week.

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Coach Arthur Smith on if he looks at Kenny Pickett's college tape to prepare for the game:
"I think you've gotten to kind of see what they're doing. We certainly have, like all of these guys, that's why I think it's important to—whether you take a guy, you don't skip steps and also, you need to learn the league because again, you only have a certain number of picks and you've got to know who's coming in and what their strengths and weaknesses. Then, you kind of see what they're doing as a pro. So, it's not necessarily going back and looking at college tape, there's enough now where you've got a good feeling. You've got to certainly know what the guy looked like at the University of Pittsburgh."

Smith on what he has seen from Pickett:
"You see a guy that obviously there's nothing that can ever replicate the live reps in an NFL game and especially playing in the pocket at the speed that this game is played and the rushers they face, but this is a guy that's improved week after week. Obviously, Monday night they came out and did a nice job. They were really balanced. They were ahead and you could see a young player getting into a rhythm. He's a talented football player."

Smith on what the advantages or disadvantages are going against Pickett:
"He's played a good number of snaps. You've seen Monday night when they were able to get a lead and keep it balanced. He's a very smart player so you can see that growth. There's a lot of things that's happened and I think the thing that goes unnoticed is how different these pockets are from college, that's the thing you never can replicate in practice. That's where the game is so different, the amount of time and the pressure players that you have in this league and how condensed these pockets are with people at your feet all the time, how you adjust. It's easy to throw when no one is at your feet. That's where the game is so much different in my personal opinion from the college to the NFL."

Quarterback Marcus Mariota on what stands out about the Steelers defense:
"First and foremost it starts upfront with Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt. Then you look at the backend and Minkah Fitzpatrick is playing at a high level. Week in and week out we talk about it's always going to be a challenge. This is going to be fun. It's always fun to go against this team."

Smith on the challenges receiver George Pickens presents:
"Talented player, made a big play the other night right there on the sideline that Pickett threw to him, physical player. They've got a good group of skill players, it'll be a challenge and certainly, he's somebody that you can see that Kenny Pickett's getting comfortable throwing to and somebody you got to account for."

Smith on what challenges the Steelers' defense presents:
"They've got some good veteran players on that front. Cam Heyward's had as good of a career as anybody up there in a long list since Chuck Noll got that thing going and they've had some damn good defenders up there. That's one of the highest praises I can give, whether that matters or not coming from me but that's why I've got a lot of respect for Cam Heyward, and what he does anchoring the interior. Obviously, T. J. Watt, really good player coming back and playing through that pec injury and is still an effective rusher, really good player. Then you've got two pretty savvy inside linebackers, Devin Bush and Myles Jack who I'm pretty familiar with his years in Jacksonville. In the third level, Minkah [Fitzpatrick] is as good as anybody as a free safety in the league. [Terrell] Edmunds and those guys, they do a nice job. You see a lot of the stuff that you blink and it was 15 years ago whether it was [Brett] Keisel, [Casey] Hampton, Aaron Smith, and LaMarr Woodley and you've got this group of guys now. There's a standard in Pittsburgh, that's why I have so much respect for Mike Tomlin and what he's done and a guy that I've looked up to in this profession that's sustained a lot of success there."