Obviously, the big issue is not having Ben. So, let's just acknowledge that, and get it out of the way. While Ben is, in my opinion, a future Hall of Fame QB, there are other players that can win on this team. The Steelers be fine through the first 4 weeks.
Let's look at Atlanta - what they do well, and how the Steelers match up on offense and defense.
The big four are Ryan, Turner, To-Go and Roddy White. WR Jenkins might not play due to a shoulder injury as he did not practice during the week.
This offense cannot go toe to toe with the Steelers defense. It is simply not physical enough. Look for a lot of redirection and moving the pocket to buy Ryan some extra time and to keep the middle blitz from being effective. During the run game, Atlanta will attack the edge (off-guard and off-tackle runs) with Turner. Turner is a fast guy, but he is not a foreign entity to the Steelers. They shut him down when he was with SD, and I expect the Steelers D to control him on Sunday. Woodley and Deebo have to control the edge.
The Steelers need to control Gonzales as he takes the seam. In the past, this was like kryptonite for the Steelers D. However, I look for Timmons and Troy to control this type of pattern and to make Tony really work to get open. This leaves Ike on White, which I think will be a wash. Look for 5 catches, 50-70 yds for White. Due to injury, Altanta's WR depth is not adequate to challenge the Steeler 2-4-5 package or the dime package.
The big advantage on defense for the Steelers are the OT/OLB matchups. Atlanta's OTs cannot matchup with Silverback and Woodley one on one. With To-Go running routes, that leaves RBs or FBs to chip and pick up free rushers in pass pro. I like the Steeler pass rush in this one. Look for at least 3 sacks.
Bottom Line: Atlanta scores three times for 13 points.
Atlanta runs a 4-3 with good edge rushers in Abraham and Biermann. The DTs are nothing exceptional, with Jerry having unknown upside coming into his 2nd season. The LB corps is just OK, with Lofton being the tackling machine @ MLB, aging Peterson at the Sam LB and rookie Witherspoon at the Will LB. The secondary is weak at strong safety and the corner spot opposite Dunta Robinson. Depth @ CB is not that good. Last year, this unit was 28th against the pass. They are lucky Ben is not in.
The Steelers have advantages at WR, TE and running up the middle. They need to be cautious in pass pro with Abraham and Biermann, and need to provide support for the OTs from time to time. Like Atlanta, but for different reasons, look for the Steelers to move the QB around. If someone on D has to spy Dixon, then that leaves on less body in coverage.
Robinson should cover Wallace, and I think Wallace can exploit him. With Robinson's recovering hamstring, it will be a tough day trying to hang with Wallace's speed. Look for Atlanta to roll a safety over top of Wallace consistently. If they don't, they'll pay. Ward should be able to turn Grimes or Williams around enough to be a consistent chain mover, and provide open looks to Dixon in the red zone. Heath can do whatever he wants in the middle. The big limiter here is Dixon's decision making. If he takes what the defense gives, and is patient, he'll win this game. I look for Dixon to throw 20-25 times for about 180-240 yards.
Mendenhall should have a decent game if he holds on to the ball. Atlanta will be looking for it. If Pouncey can get to Lofton consistently, then the Steelers should have a stellar day on the ground. If Pouncey gets caught up in the trash, or gets controlled by the DTs, then that will limit production...but not completely. I anticipate 20-25 carries for 90-110 yards from Mendy.
Bottom Line: Steelers score four times and hang at least 24 points on Atlanta. Once score is due to great field position from a turnover.
This will be a fun one to watch.