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Saturday, August 27, 2011
Three things: Falcons-Steelers

By Pat Yasinskas

Three things to watch for in Atlanta’s preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET:

1. The debut of Ray Edwards. He was Atlanta’s prized signing in free agency, but fans have yet to see the defensive end play. He had a minor operation on his knee in the preseason and the team has brought him along slowly. He’s supposed to get a fair amount of playing time. Edwards might not go into the third quarter like the rest of the starters, but the Falcons are anxious to get a look at their investment and they’ll be looking for signs he can help the pass rush.

2. Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon at linebacker. These two have played before, but haven’t worked together as starters in the regular season. Weatherspoon took Nicholas’ starting job last year and showed promise as a rookie. But his first year was interrupted by injuries. Weatherspoon has the potential to be a play-making linebacker. Nicholas has good speed and athleticism and he’s back in the starting lineup in place of veteran Mike Peterson. The Falcons wanted more speed at linebacker and they’re hoping that translates into more big plays.

3. Matt Ryan and the offense. There have been a few big plays and bright moments in the first two preseason games. But there also have been some mistakes. The third preseason game is the one where starters get the most playing time and the Falcons want to show they have the kinks worked out on an offense that has a chance to be one of the league’s best.