Pittsburgh Steelers Struggle Against New Orleans Saints On Both Sides Of The Ball, Lose Ground In Division


Nov 30, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the final NFL stretch of five games, the Steelers welcomed quarterback Drew Brees and his New Orleans Saints to Heinz Field Sunday afternoon.

The Steelers were expected to be fresh, coming off a bye week, and returning players such as Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor on defense.

Whereas the Steelers were in the mix of the AFC North with each team with at least seven wins, the Saints were tied for first place in the NFC South with only four wins.  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a total of 12 touchdown passes in his last two home games, and the Saints defense has not looked good for most of the season.

The Steelers (7-5) struggled on both sides of the ball, falling into a 35-16 deficit and losing 35-32 to the Saints (5-7).

The final score looks much closer than the game truly was.

Ben struggled most of the game, overthrowing several receivers and appearing to injure his right hand.  Saints defender Curtis Lofton struck Ben’s wrist as he followed through on a 21 yard pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown.

In the first quarter, both offenses couldn’t find their rhythm, and Suisham nailed a 49-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 3-0 lead.

Suisham then made a 31-yard field goal to increase the lead to 6-0, but against an offensive juggernaut like the Saints, field goals won’t cut it.  The Saints offense began to roll with a 15 yard Brees TD pass to tight end Benjamin Watson to make it 7-6 New Orleans.

Roethlisberger was intercepted by Kenny Vaccaro on the next drive.  Brees connected with Kenny Stills for 44 yards, setting up a 4 yard TD pass to Erik Lorig, making it 14-6.

The Steelers trailed 14-6 going into halftime, as Ben was only completed 8 of 22 passes for 115 yards and 1 interception.  The Saints blew a few other opportunities for interceptions, one of which would have been a pick six.

In the second half, Brees had little to no pressure, allowing him to pick apart the Steelers secondary.

Roethlisberger had a pass tipped and intercepted by Cameron Jordan, would turn out to be a huge turnover for Pittsburgh.  Immediately after the turnover, Brees connected with tight end Nick Toon for a 11 yard TD to increase the lead 21-6.

The Steelers finally responded with a long drive, capped off by LeVeon Bell’s third rushing touchdown of the season from 1 yard out to make it 21-13.  LeVeon Bell set a Steelers record for receiving yards by a running back in the game, but the Steelers didn’t have success with other backs.

The Saints next drive put an early dagger into the Steelers, as Brees hit a wide open Stills for a 69 yard TD pass to make it 28-13.

Nov 30, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers safey Troy Polamalu (43) lays on the field after making a tackle against the New Orleans Saints during the first half at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers settled for another field goal from 47 yards out, but the Saints marched down the field again.  With the help of a costly holding penalty on cornerback Antwan Blake, Brees tossed his 5th passing TD of the game to Marques Colston from 3 yards out to increase the lead 35-16.

With the game at a blowout stage, Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown on two late passing touchdowns to make the game look much closer than it really was.

The NFC South has only 2 victories against the AFC North.  The Steelers are involved in both (Tampa Bay, New Orleans).

Saints Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham was surprisingly held without a catch, but it didn’t matter for the Saints in their huge second road win of the season.

In a game in which we expected a healthy Steelers squad to gain momentum and make a playoff push, they struggled and played down to the level of the 4-7 Saints.

With such a heated battle for the AFC North, the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-13 to improve to 8-3-1.  The Cleveland Browns fell to the Buffalo Bills 26-10 to fall to 7-5 like the Steelers.  The Baltimore Ravens fell to the San Diego Chargers 34-33, so their record is also 7-5.

Pittsburgh will travel to Cincinnati next Sunday afternoon to battle the first place Bengals in a very crucial AFC North matchup.