Rapid Reaction: Steelers 15, Falcons 9


PITTSBURGH -- I’m heading downstairs for interviews and will be back with much more later. But, first, some quick observations on the Falcons' 15-9 loss to the Steelers.

What it means: This was a horrible loss for the Falcons. Yes, it’s tough to go on the road against a good team and get a win. But this one was set up for the Falcons all summer long. They were going against a Pittsburgh team that was without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and backup Byron Leftwich. If you’re really going to be a playoff team, you have to take advantage of opportunities like this. The Falcons did not.

Tomorrow's talker: What happened to Atlanta’s offense? Sure, Pittsburgh has a very good defense. But an offense that has Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez should never be shut down for much of the day. Turner looked slow and tentative and Ryan had about as bad a game as I’ve seen from him. I gave him a pass last year because of the injuries around him and didn’t buy into all the talk about the “sophomore slump’’. But Ryan's into Year 3 now. Should we be talking about a “Junior Jinx’’?

Goat: Ryan. He got picked off by Troy Polamalu late in the first quarter on a sideline throw. Polumalu baited Ryan into making the throw and the quarterback failed to spot one of the NFL’s most dangerous defensive backs.

What I didn't like: Remember all that talk we heard during the preseason about how Atlanta’s pass rush would be better? Well, I didn’t see any real difference. Aside from a sack by John Abraham, the Falcons really didn’t get much pressure on Dennis Dixon, until Curtis Lofton and Kroy Biermann came through with sacks late in the game. Prior to that, there was almost no pressure on Dixon.That’s inexcusable because the young quarterback has very little experience and the Falcons probably missed some opportunities to force mistakes.

What’s next: The Falcons have their home opener next Sunday with Arizona. They’ve got lots to fix and they better do it quickly because they’ve got to travel to New Orleans in Week 3. Suddenly, it looks as if the Falcons could have a 1-2 or 0-3 start.