3 Things I saw in Falcons @ Steelers

By David Schiele

  1. Austin Hooper is for real.

Austin Hooper only caught two passes against Pittsburgh. Both receptions, however, converted long 3rd downs. On the first catch, Hooper was covered tightly by Steelers LB Vince Williams, but turned and created some space for Matt Ryan to complete a 14-yard pass on 3rd and 10. His second reception was more impressive, as he broke two tackles and stretched out to turn a short pass from Matt Schaub into a first down.


If you’re a fantasy football player, you need to draft Austin Hooper. He’s only in his second year but plays like a 10-year veteran. He spent time with Matt Ryan during the offseason and will serve as Matt Ryan’s security blanket this season.


  1. Takkarist McKinley looks fast.

The Falcons’ first-round selection made his NFL debut against the Steelers and quickly made his presence felt. The rookie defensive end produced 2 QB hurries and 1 QB hit in his first ten plays of NFL action. That single QB hit was felt throughout the stadium, as McKinley launched his 250-pound frame at Joshua Dobbs chest.


Away from the stat sheet, McKinley’s burst off the line of scrimmage was on full display. Dan Quinn raved about the 21-year-old’s motor and speed after drafting him and, so far, McKinley has proven DQ right.


Don’t get ahead of yourself and think that Takk will have double-digit sacks this season. Outside of the bull rush, he hasn’t perfected any other pass rushing moves. It may take a season or more to fully develop his pass-rushing repertoire.


  1. The special teams unit needs work.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the Falcons’ special teams meetings this week. Atlanta had a punt blocked and another returned for a touchdown in Pittsburgh. Coordinator Keith Armstrong is a passionate coach and, undoubtedly, will have some colorful words for his guys in the next few days.


The Falcons’ starting offense and defense have looked solid thus far. It would be an absolute downer for special teams to become the Achilles heel of this Falcons team, costing them regular season games.

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