Tough, tough game. A game where the Steelers could have won, but a few mistakes really made the difference tonight. The Saints wanted it bad. They needed this win more than the Steelers did. They got it in front of a rockin stadium. Meh. Here is the recap.
The first quarter was actually pretty lame. Nothing really doing on any of the drives and both teams are really feeling each other out. I guess this really can’t be surprising because they play each other once in a blue moon. Literally.
The Steelers punted in their three possessions in the first half and so did the Saints in their three. Not surprisingly the Steelers did a good job of running the football, and it wasn’t just Rashard Mendenhall. Memo and Redman had first down carries in the first half and each picked up 10+ yards on each. The Steelers never got in Saints territory in the quarter and the Saints got into the Steelers land one time. The one time they did get into Steelers territory it was pretty crazy.
The Saints started with the ball around the 50 and picked up a first down. The Saints ran a third down play to Julius Jones and it was an incomplete screen pass. Troy came down and made a tackles even know the pass was tipped and Jones did not like it. Actually got up in Troy’s face, and more surprising Troy chirped back. Jones got out of hand and actually pushed Ryan Clark after. 15 yard penalty, out of field goal range. Stupid.
The Steelers got in business at the end of the quarter though. After a big defensive stop on a three and out on the Saints third, and final, possession of the quarter they punted to Manny Sanders and he made one move and was gone. Took the ball into Saint territory where the Steelers set up shop.
The Steelers wasted no time getting the ball moving. Rashard ran the ball on the first two carries of the drive for a first down and then caught a nicely executed screen pass to set up another first down. Then with great protection on a third and three Ben steps up in the pocket and hit El at the goal line for a first down. It was initially ruled a touchdown but it was challenged and ruled he didn’t make it in. Not sure how that is since the Steelers bring their own officials to the game. Ben could have easily ran for the first down but hit El, great play by Ben. With the ball at the one yard line they got nothing. Stuffed on three straight run plays and had to settle for a Jeff Reed extra point for a 3-0 early lead.
I must make the point that on second and goal Mendy took a run off the right side and broke the plane ever so slightly but the refs missed it. I guess we should have got that call since we have the refs in our back pocket right?
The rest of the second half was a lot of field position playing by both teams. Near the end of the half the Saints had the football around the two minute warning and the Saints were deep in their own territory and Drew Brees went for a big play, but Ike Taylor was there.
Set the Steelers up in the Saints end of the field to get points before the half. Ben went for Hines in the end zone on second down and it was incomplete. A flag was thrown. Darren Sharper kind of launched himself at Hines so I thought he might get called for the new, enforced, head-to-head shot. I thought it might be a little weak, but I would take it. Hines actually got called for offensive PI. The replay showed that Hines had his hand on the DB, but gave about as much push as your one year old kid does. What a weak f-in call. You want to talk about the refs being in favor of the Steelers you can shove it up your ass.
Jeff Reed has to try and hit a 51-yard field goal but can’t get it. Shit.
The Saints take it down the field and set up for a short field goal. They actually have a fourth down play and try to set up in a fake. Mike Tomlin will have none of that. He calls a timeout and resets things and the Saints come to their senses and kick a field goal. 3-3.
If you told me, before the game, that we would go into the half tied at three then I would take it every day of the week. Getting into a shootout with the Saints in not a great idea but if you can keep the score close and tied at halftime that is a win for me.
The Saints opened up the second half with a pretty nice return to set them up with the ball around midfield. Not really what the Steelers needed. The Saints had no trouble moving the ball down the field, until the Steelers didn’t want them to move the ball anymore. The Saints got a PI call in the end zone on Troy (they defiantly have the refs in their pocket) got the ball first and goal at the one. A first pass play was incomplete to a lineman (how bad do you kick yourself if you are that lineman) and the Saints unsuccessfully ran the ball twice and settled for a field goal
Why are you trying to run the ball on second AND third down on this Steelers defense? Do you want to just kick a field goal? You just shoulda brought the team on the field for second down and just saved yourself the trouble. Terrible play calling there.
The Steelers offense was getting nothing going on the Saints defense. Some of it was just not hooking up with receivers, some of it was the loudness of the dome and some of it was just bad play calling. You couldn’t really pinpoint one thing, but you just knew that it was going to come through and give the Steelers a chance to win.
After another mud quarter the fourth quarter was pretty off the hook.
The Saints started the third quarter with a touchdown drive that made the score 13-3 on a 10 play drive that ended with a Marques Colston 16-yard touchdown grab. It was actually a really nice play and
With a little over 12 minutes to go in the game it was pretty much now or never for the Steelers offense. Even though the Saints can’t run the football they can create sort of a run game out of quick passes and still make long drives without running the football.
The Black and Gold got the ball on their own 32 and it took four plays to cash in. Ben got some time and made some great throws to get down the field and then on the fourth play of the drive Rashard took it to the hizzy and it was game on.
If you were watching the game you knew that if the defense could just make a big play or just get a punt then this could get very interesting. Hell I thought we were defiantly going to win there. What happen? The Saints move the ball into Steelers territory then Dick LeBeau strikes. DL dials up a corner blitz and Bryant McFadden puts his helmet right on the football and it is loose and the Steelers recover. That is what big defenses do. The Steelers are set up.
The Steelers are moving the ball again. Really look like they found the rhythm they needed. On the third play of the drive Ben finds Heath Miller down the middle and he takes it to the Saints 30 yard line, but, shit.
Heath Miller is probably the most reliable Steeler in terms of holding onto the football but this is that one rare time of the season that he fumbles. Huge play.
The Saints get the ball move it down the field and score. I am not even going to talk about how. James Harrison gets tacked with a 15 yard roughing the passer penalty AFTER getting held. I mean what is new. I guess it is a good thing we have the refs in our back pocket, right?
Lance Moore TD. Troy just missed knocking the ball out but big ups to Moore for hanging on there. I fumble that ball in a second. I guess that is why he plays in the NFL.
-In the grand scheme of things this game doesn’t hurt as bad as some other losses can hurt the Steelers this year. Sure it sucks losing and I hate it more than anything, but lets be realistic, you are going to lose a game or two during the season. If your few losses are to NFC teams in a hostile environment then it isn’t that bad. The loss will not factor into any tie breakers and lets face it that was a Super Bowl champion from last year and they are playing to stay in the hunt in the NFC, that was no slouch team, especially at home.
-That was playoff football. No question about it. The teams never play but they were geeked up for the game. Tensions were high and the stakes were big and it was a great football game to watch. The Steelers defense came to play. If you can hold the Saints offense to three first half points and 20 for the game you have a good chance of winning. A break here and there and the game is the Steelers. Not a total loss.
-The loss can be broken down into a couple of plays. The Heath Miller fumble, the missed field goal and the goal line stand by the Saints defense. The Steelers have to put the ball into the end zone when they have first and goal from the one. They ran the ball three times and got stuffed all three times. If there was one thing I wanted to see it was Ben take a quick snap right up the middle. He gets in, no question. Hopefully BA learns from that.
-Interesting how the Steelers used their punt returners for the game. Any time the Steelers were going to be inside their own 20 they had Randle El out there to return punts. I understand this, I don’t really want Manny back there, yet, in those situations. Most of those are going to be fair catch punts and Randle El does a nice job of catching the football and knowing what to do. The time that the Steelers were going to get favorable field position Manny was out there and boy did he not disappoint. He returned a punt for 38 yards. I hope he gets more comfortable in that role because he is a difference maker. He did fumble once on a kickoff return so that needs to be cleaned up, but this kid is special.
- On the topic of special teams, Dan Sepulveda is a difference maker. In a first half that was largely a field position Sepulveda gave the Steelers defense a fighting chance. He punted the ball four times for a 48 yard average and pinned the Saints inside the 20 twice. What a player. If the Steelers won that game Sepulveda was going to be a huge reason why. Without a doubt.
- Ike Taylor needs to be resigned. I know people bash him a lot in Pittsburgh but he has been good all season. Another interception last night and he has been great in coverage all year. Ike is not going to have the stats and the lack of catching the football keeps him out of the Pro Bowl but he is the real deal. He is going to have his breakdowns like any DB but they are pretty few and far between. What is also great about Ike Taylor is that he might be the best tackling corner in the league. A few times last night he was in the open field, one on one with ball carriers and he made a good form tackle each time.
- Ziggy Hood played a pretty nice game in place of Aaron Smith. He is not Aaron Smith but it was nice to see him make a few plays. Hopefully he can build on this and continue good play.
- If Lawrence Timmons isn’t a Pro Bowl player then I don’t know who is. This guy has been easily the best player on this defense all season. 12 tackles last night, two tackles for losses and a QB hit. He is just a monster no matter where he plays on the field.
- Troy was not good last night. He has not been good the past couple of weeks. Just doesn’t seem like himself. I am sure that will change and over the course of a season players are going to have cold streaks so we will see, but he wasn’t very good last night. I am not worried, just worth mentioning.
- There are very few plays were James Harrison doesn’t get held. I am not talking about a hand slipping over his shoulder holding, I am talking about straight arm bar around the throat holding. It is sickening and although we should be used to seeing that it is very frustrating when he gets held like that and then James Harrison gets called for a penalty. Give me a break.
- From all accounts that was the loudest place that most everyone on the Steelers squad have played on. Listening to Tunch and Wolfe today on the radio and they said it was even louder during timeouts than it was during the game. Unreal. That dome can keep noise in. One thing I was impressed with was that the Steelers had zero false start penalties. Very nice. They were still confused because they were going with silent signs and such but this was probably the first real time they needed it. Reminds me of 2005 in the RCA dome. Disaster the first time, but they learned and it helped them in the future. True, they will not play in the dome in New Orleans again this year, but they might have to play somewhere as loud and they will be prepared. Just sayin.
Well big game coming up. Another prime timer against the Bungles. Get your minds right.