Labriola on win over Falcons

Their offense wasn't very good in the red zone, but it scored touchdowns on plays that covered 77 and 44 yards. Their defense allowed a 50 percent conversion rate on third downs, but it had three takeaways that included an interception returned 95 yards for a touchdown.

Mike Tomlin calls them splash plays, and when Dennis Dixon took a knee for the third straight time to end the evening's proceedings, the Atlanta Falcons left Heinz Field all wet, 34-16.

The win was the Steelers' second straight in the preseason following that clunker of an opener against the Washington Redskins, but more important than the outcomes that were achieved against the Eagles and the Falcons was the manner in which they were attained.

In those two games, the Steelers first-team offense was on the field for eight possessions, with five touchdowns and a field goal to its credit. Of those touchdowns, four have come on passes of 20-plus yards – 29, 20, 77 and 44. In those same two games, the Steelers defense has recorded eight takeaways that have included six interceptions, one of which was returned 95 yards for a touchdown.

Splash plays. Typically, the team with more of them ends up winning the game.

"I liked the splash plays," said Tomlin. "We had some big plays offensively and defensively, and I thought it was the difference in the game. It was not the consistent, dominant performance that we were looking for, or winning by attrition. But we were explosive offensively. We made key plays, game changing-like plays defensively.

"But we will have to learn from this. I understand that can't be a continual recipe for us in terms of winning football games. I'd like to see us win the line of scrimmage more definitively on offense. I'd like to see us get off more consistently on third downs defensively, put more consistent pressure on the quarterback and have tighter coverage in the secondary. But we will take the win."

They can be methodical on offense and grind things out with a succession of long drives that include a lot of plays. That has been a staple of Steelers football for decades.

They also can be stingy on defense and do to an opponent what a boa constrictor does to its prey. As recently as 2008, the Steelers defense tied an NFL record by going 14 straight games without allowing an opponent to amass as much as 300 yards of offense.

That's fine. That can work, the methodical, the consistent.

But so can this, the quick strike, the explosive.

The ability to be either, well, that's what can make them great.

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