Edwards makes quiet debut for Falcons

PITTSBURGH — Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards had a quiet debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday night.

Edwards, the team’s prized free-agent signee, did not play in the first two exhibition games because he was recovering from offseason knee surgery.

Edwards did not record a sack in the first half, but his presence may have led to sacks by defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux and Vance Walker.

After Edwards signed with the Falcons on July 29, Falcons coach Mike Smith noted that his presence would help the entire defensive line and not just right defensive end John Abraham, who finished with 13 sacks and 17 quarterback hurries last season.

With Edwards in the lineup against the Steelers, Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was like a kid with a new toy.

Edwards played some left end, but frequently switched sides with Abraham. He also dropped into coverage three times while playing on the left side in the first half.

On his second drop into pass coverage, Edwards picked up Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall out of the backfield.

The Steelers seem to pay Edwards a great deal of respect early. On their first two plays, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rolled out to his left, away from Edwards, before he connected with tight end David Johnson for gains of 17 yards on each play.

On the Steelers’ second possession, the Falcons came up with a sack when they forced Pittsburgh into an obvious passing situation. On a third-and-17, Edwards had a strong rush from left end and appeared to be held by Pittsburgh right tackle Willie Colon.

Edwards flushed Roethlisberger to his left, where he was sacked by Babineaux. If Roethlisberger had scooted away from Babineaux, Abraham was waiting for him.

After a Falcons’ turnover and a hustle play by Harry Douglas to stop Lawrence Timmons from scoring on an interception return, Edwards didn’t take the field with the short-yardage defense. Playing without Edwards, the Falcons held the Steelers out of the end zone and forced them to kick a field goal.