atlanta – NFL teams will handle the final game of the preseason in different ways in terms of playing their starting players, and you’ve seen both extremes. steelers And Falcon met at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday night.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin played all of his healthy starters for the first two drives, while Falcons coach Arthur Smith held out all of his, and the result was clearly lopsided, with the Steelers leading 17–0 in the first quarter and easy. were on the way. 24-0 win.

Tomlin said of his reasoning for feeding his best players, “You can’t get enough opportunities like that in the stadium.” “You do your best to emulate it in a practice setting, but it is what it is… I think boxing without competition is difficult. Preseason is a time for us to hone and sharpen our swords for the fight.” There’s an opportunity.”

The Steelers’ starting offense had five drives in three preseason games and scored touchdowns on all five, including both drives to start Thursday’s game. Quarterback kenny pickett Was quick, connecting with his top two receivers on the opening drive, finding first downs Dionte Johnson running down the left side for 33 yards, then hitting george pickens Down the right side for a spectacular 35-yard catch at the 1-yard line, setting a naji harris touchdown.

“It was our goal to finish the preseason strong and finish strong, to go out there and put points on the board, and we got to 2-2 on a touchdown,” Puckett said. “It’s proof that the hard work we put in paid off and we had a good preseason. Obviously, it matters now, so we have to keep our focus on San Fran and focus on those guys and Gotta get ready for the game.”

Puckett went 4-for-4 for 86 yards, two touchdowns and finished his preseason with a final tally of 13-of-15 for 199 yards with no interceptions. This yields a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3.

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The first half couldn’t have been more uneven – Pittsburgh led 17–0 after one quarter and trailed atlanta 176 to minus-2, and the Falcons were still only 8 yards of total offense with six minutes left in the half. When asked if his playing time pattern changed at all based on the Falcons’ decision not to play their best players, Tomlin said it didn’t.

He said, “I don’t care what the Joneses do.” “We’re going to do what we do.”

So with five minutes left in the first half and the Falcons down to their last quarterback, Pittsburgh still had their starting linebacker elanden roberts In the game, receiving a sack, one of five for the Steelers in the game.

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“Games like this, you can’t waste,” Roberts said. “So we went out there to work on our communication, worked on what we needed to work on as a defense. When we were satisfied, we were able to get started.”

Preseason success doesn’t always extend to the games that matter. The Steelers also went 3–0 in the preseason last season, only to open the regular season with a 2–6 record before rallying to win seven of their last nine and save a 9–8 record.

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Thursday’s preseason finale wasn’t perfect either – Tomlin missed a penalty on the opening kickoff, setting up a 92-yard touchdown drive for the offense, and a flag on their defense to keep 12 men on the field on their opening drive. Planted, they can work on all the little things when flags matter more.

The Steelers will trim their roster from 90 players to a maximum of 53 as of Tuesday afternoon, and they still have 17 days to go before they begin the regular season at home against the 49ers, but are expected to pick up where they left off Thursday. Left at night.

“I can’t say enough about the group and the energy they bring every day,” Tomlin said. “Hopefully it’s a catalyst for us as we transition from pre-season ball to regular-season ball.”

Greg Aumann is Fox Sports’ NFC South reporter, covering buccaneershawk, panthers and Saint. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. you can follow them on twitter @gregauman,

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