1. Injury Updates: Falcons head coach Mike Smith revealed that Julio Jones (hip) and William Moore (foot) will be listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Steelers. Falcons fullback Patrick DiMarco (illness) missed practice Friday and will also be listed as questionable for Sunday. Falcons cornerback Robert Alford (wrist) has been ruled out for the Week 15 game.
Smith did reveal that Jones has been running on the side this week, working with the Athletic Performance staff. He remains confident that Jones still may be a go on Sunday.
"I want the doctors to say he's ready to go," Smith said. "It's not going to be decision I'm going to make. It's not going to be a decision that Julio is going to make. They are going to evaluate it and make that decision."
2. Facing a Dick LeBeau-Led Defense: The Falcons' offense is well aware that Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is known as the "Godfather of Confusion," mastering the skill of causing problems for the opposition. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan described LeBeau's defense.
"They present a lot of different looks," Ryan said. "They've got a great blitz package, so you have to work really hard in the film room and on the practice field to be able to get the communication where you want it in terms of pass protection and the run game.
3. Tice's OL Evaluation: The Falcons offensive line has endured several changes throughout the year, much due to injury. Six weeks ago, left tackle Jake Matthews, left guard Justin Blalock, center James Stone, right guard Jon Asamoah and right tackle Ryan Schraeder started together. The group has gelled in productive fashion since then, causing offensive line coach Mike Tice to describe his guys in the following way:
"Improving," Tice said.
"They are more cohesive, good finishers and a work in progress. Being able to play six weeks in a row with the same guys, you're going to improve. There is so much communication that goes on between those five guys and knowing where to go and who to block. I think we have enough talent to continue to grow and get better."
As for the Pittsburgh defensive front his guys will see on Sunday, Tice said the Steelers group is "explosive, violent, athletic and fast."
4. Jackson vs. Polamalu: Falcons running back Steven Jackson, who starred at Oregon State, is preparing to face a former college rival on Sunday, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, a proud USC alum. Polamalu is a key leader for the entire team, let alone for the Pittsburgh defense.
"He's a future Hall-of-Famer," Jackson said. "He's very smart. He has a nose for the football. He understands the game of football. He's very instinctive."
Sunday's game will be Jackson's third-career game against the Steelers safety (0-2) in the NFL, his first in a Falcons uniform.
5. Repeat of Short-Week Success?: The last time the Falcons faced the challenges of less prep time, Week 3 against Tampa Bay, the team responded in victorious fashion. Following a Week 2 loss to the Bengals, Atlanta quickly prepared for a Thursday night matchup against the Buccaneers and won in convincing fashion, 56-14. Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann was asked if mentally knowing his team excelled in a short week earlier in the season could benefit the Falcons this week.
"Each week is different," Biermann said. "Each team is different that you play. Each team you're going to face, you're going to prepare for differently. I just know that guys are going to be ready and we're going to put our best foot forward, be ready to play, and hopefully put on a good performance."