The Falcons’ offense could receive a boost from the return of running back Devonta Freeman, who has been out with a knee contusion since the season opener Sept. 6 in Philadelphia.
The Falcons (1-3) play Pittsburgh (1-2-1) 1 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Field. The franchise has never won a regular-season game in Pittsburgh as they have a 0-6-1 record against the traditional AFC powerhouse.
“Yeah, I think the guys we’re hopeful to get back would be Devonta, and I think we’ve got a real shot with (defensive end Derrick) Shelby,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on Monday. “We’ll take a look at those two and see if they can come back into it. Yeah, because of the work Devonta did in practice last week, we're very hopeful.”
Freeman was very limited in practice last week before he was ruled out of the Sunday game against the Bengals on Friday.
The Falcons’ rushing attack has struggled for most of this season. It averages 96 yards rushing per game, which ranks 21st in the league.
While replacing Freeman, Tevin Coleman rushed for 107 yards in the win over the Panthers, but was held to 33 yards by the Saints and 51 by the Bengals.
The Steelers’ defense is giving up 115.8 yards per game, which ranks 21st in the league.
The Falcons need to run the ball better in order to keep the defense, which is giving up 403 yards per game (28th) and 30.5 points per game (30th), off the field.
In the opener against the Eagles, Freeman had six rushes for 36 yards before taking a helmet to the knee.
Also, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett left the Bengals game with an ankle sprain. He played only 37 snaps. If it was a more serious high ankle sprain, the Falcons’ already depleted defense could be without it’s best defensive tackle.
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