12/04 19:28 CST Heyward brothers lead Steelers to 19-16 win over Falcons
Heyward brothers lead Steelers to 19-16 win over Falcons
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) --- Ironhead would've been proud of his boys.
After a morning trip to their father's grave, Cameron and Connor Heyward played
an inspired role in Pittsburgh's first winning streak of the season.
Connor hauled in the first touchdown catch of the rookie tight end's NFL
career, Cameron anchored a defense that allowed only a single touchdown, and
the Steelers made it two victories in a row by holding off the Atlanta Falcons
It couldn't have come in a more appropriate place.
Their father, Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, was a bruising runner who spent three
seasons with the Falcons in 1990s. After a bout with cancer, he died at the age
of just 39 and is buried in suburban Atlanta.
His sons made sure to pay a visit before the game.
"This morning, we woke up early and went to my dad's grave," Cameron Heyward
said. "It kind of hit me when (Connor) scored. I was a complete mess. I don't
like to be a soppy person, but it was one of those moments."
Cameron, a 33-year-old defensive tackle, wasn't too shabby either.
He had the Steelers only sack, got another hit on Falcons quarterback Marcus
Mariota and broke up a pass.
"My dad and God are always working together," said Cameron, who donned his
father's No. 34 Falcons jersey after the game.
Coming off a Monday night victory at Indianapolis, Kenny Pickett and the
Steelers (5-7) finally put together a winning streak in what has been a tough
rebuilding year in Pittsburgh.
Pickett's touchdown pass to Connor Heyward came midway through the second
quarter after the youngster ran right between two defenders and wound up in the
back of the end zone all by himself.
It was set up by a 57-yard completion to Pat Freiermiuth.
Pickett, also a rookie, turned in another solid performance. He completed 16 of
28 for 197 yards and has now gone four straight games without throwing an
"To go out here and get back-to-back wins, feel the momentum a little bit, it
feels great," Pickett said.
Atlanta, meanwhile, squandered a late opportunity near the goal line for the
second week in a row.
After having a deflected pass picked off in the end zone at Washington, which
preserved the Commanders' 19-13 victory, the Falcons (5-8) had first-and-goal
from the Steelers 10 with another chance to pull out a victory with a touchdown.
But an obvious holding penalty on Parker Hesse wiped out Cordarrelle
Patterson's apparent TD run around left end, a false start backed up the
Falcons more, and they wound up settling for Younghoe Koo's third field goal of
the day from 28 yards with 5:27 remaining.
The Steelers ran off all but the final 42 seconds before Pressley Harvin pinned
a punt at the Falcons' 2-yard line. In desperation mode with no timeouts
remaining, Mariota's pass was picked off by Minkah Fitzpatrick to seal the
victory and send a hefty contingent of towel-waving Steelers fans into a wild
celebration that made Mercedes-Benz Stadium look like Pittsburgh South.
With a bye week upcoming, coach Arthur Smith hinted that changes are coming.
Perhaps even at quarterback, where rookie Desmond Ridder has backed up Mariota
"Every option's on the table," coach Arthur Smith said.
Matthew Wright handled most of the scoring for Steelers, connecting on field
goals of 46, 46, 48 and 38 yards. The Steelers took a 19-6 lead into the final
minute of the third quarter before the Falcons finally reached the end zone.
Tight end MyCole Pruitt hauled in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to cap
an eight-play, 75-yard drive that made it 19-13.
The Falcons got the ball back and drove down the field again, converting on
fourth-and-1 before Anthony Firkser hauled in a 15-yard pass for a first down
at the 10.
But Hesse's penalty helped send the Falcons to another tough loss.
For the Steelers --- and especially the Heyward brothers --- it was a far
"I talked to Connor as we were walking out out of the tunnel, and we said we
were going to get the win for his Pops today," Pickett said. "It's not a
coincidence. Everything happens for a reason."
Pickett has now thrown 128 passes without an interception since his last pick
against Philadelphia on Oct. 30.
The Steelers improved to 4-4 in the eight starts he's made since taking over
the No. 1 job.
"Every week, I feel like I'm getting better and better," he said.
The Falcons are still contention in the NFC South, where no team has a winning
But four losses in their last five games --- by a total of 22 points --- have
put a real damper on their hopes.
"Sure, we've been close, but we've gotta evaluate everything," Smith said.
"We've got to get over hump, get back in the winning category. There's a lot
that need to be evaluated, talked about and discussed."
Steelers: CB Levi Wallace appeared to hurt an arm or hand when he ran into
Fitzpatrick in the first half. SS Terrell Edmunds was injured on the first play
of second half after tackling Patterson. RT Chukwuma Okorafor hobbled off the
field in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury.
Falcons: LB Troy Anderson went down with an ankle injury.
Steelers: Return home next Sunday to face the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC North
Falcons: After the bye, travel to New Orleans to face the NFC South rival
Saints on Dec. 18.
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