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Rookie Conner stars in Steelers' 17-13 win over Falcons

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Rookie running back James Conner set up Pittsburgh's winning fourth-quarter touchdown pass in the Steelers' 17-13 exhibition victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

The Steelers fell behind 13-3 after an abysmal first half. However, they rebounded in the second half, thanks to the defense pitching a shutout, Trey Williams returning a punt for a touchdown, and running back James Conner catching fire in the backfield. As a result, Pittsburgh was able to reel off a 17-13 come-from-behind win at Heinz Field Sunday night.

“The first half of the game was defined by our inability to execute," Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said. "We couldn't get off the field [on defense]."

Pittsburgh managed only a 42-yard Chris Boswell field goal in the first half. The defense, made up of many first team players, allowed the Falcons to march down the field 91 yards for a touchdown on their opening drive. Atlanta scored two field goals in the second quarter to take a 13-3 lead at the break.

The Steelers then pushed the momentum in their direction in one fell swoop.

PLAY of the GAME
Backup running back Trey Williams tore off the play of the game when he returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown with four minutes left in the third quarter. It was the first Steelers' touchdown of the game.

Player of the Game
While Conner was in a funk in the first half, as he had only 13 yards on five rushes with 11 yards coming on one run. He rebounded in the second half though, and had a successful debut by finishing with 98 yards on 20 carries. Even though his first carry was only for three yards, the crowd still cheered in support.

"My first carry in a Steelers uniform was something special. I feel comfortable at Heinz Field," Conner said. "I enjoy running the football. I was more relaxed as the game went on."

Defensive Player of the Game
Safety Jordan Dangerfield intercepted two passes, had two tackles, and defended a pass to help spearhead the defense.

"Our halftime adjustment was to get off the field on third down," Dangerfield said. "You have to go out there and prove yourself in this business. I don't take anything for granted in my journey."

Boneheaded Play of the Game
Josh Dobbs played most of the game at quarterback for the Steelers. He finished with 10 completions on 19 attempts for 70 yards.

But when Dobbs attempted to pitch the ball forward while he was falling down with 40 seconds left in the third quarter, his pass was intercepted by Quincy Mauger on the Steelers 32 yard line.

"I'll go back and watch the film and see what I can continue to improve on," Dobbs said. "I put myself in a bind [on the interception]. I needed to let the game come to me." 

However, on the next play, Dangerfield recorded one of his two interceptions (thrown by Matt Simms) to give the ball right back and the Steelers at their own 31.

Bart Houston relieved Dobbs at quarterback and threw a 6-yard touchdown to Justin Hunter midway through the second half to finish the scoring for the game.

Pittsburgh returns to preseason action on Saturday by hosting the Indianapolis Colts. Kickoff is 7:30.

The following Steelers sat out the game, some due to being injured or not wanting to risk injury: quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown, linebacker James Harrison, quarterback Landry Jones, wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, defensive back Brian Allen, running back Brandon Brown-Dukes, linebacker Ryan Shazier, linebacker Keith Kelsey.

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