The Pittsburgh Steelers were delivered in crunch time against the Saints, but the victory might not be as impressive as we had hoped it would.
At 2-6 we all knew that a loss in Week 10 would have been disastrous for a team trying to fight and claw their way back into relevancy this year. With two weeks to prepare to play the New Orleans Saints, Mike Tomlin showed that his team wasn’t going down without a fight.
It might not have been pretty, but the Steelers got the job done against their ailing opponent. On New Orleans’ first offensive possession, T.J. Watt made his presence felt with two defensive stops deep in Saints territory. This quickly resulted in great field position for Pittsburgh, but the team wasn’t able to capitalize right away.
On their next series, however, the Steelers capped off a 12-play, 57-yard drive with a George Pickens rushing touchdown. After a strong second quarter by New Orleans, the two teams entered halftime squared away at 10-10.
In the second half, Pittsburgh’s defense stole the show as they sacked QAndy Dalton and intercepted him twice. This resulted in allowing just a 62.9 passer rating to the opposing quarterback. By the end of the game, the Saints managed just 29 rushing yards and 186 total yards, according to ESPN stats.
After going up by ten points in the second half, the Steelers were eventually able to run the clock out and cruise to victory. This was a step in the right direction for Tomlin and company, but I wasn’t as encouraged by the win as I would have hoped to be.
Steelers win wasn’t overly encouraging
Though a win is a win in the NFL, this wasn’t the way I wanted to watch the Steelers advance to 3-6 on the season. I was encouraged by a strong rushing attack this week that included the best performance of the season by RB Najee Harris. As a unit, Pittsburgh rushed for a whopping 217 yards (99 of which came from Najee).
Sadly, I still didn’t see what I was hoping to see from this contest. With the return of T.J. Watt, we could have guessed that Pittsburgh’s defense would have performed well against a 3-6 team riddled with injuries and coming off a Monday night loss. The defense was admittedly encouraging, but it was the Steelers passing game that still left a lot to be desired.
Despite the Saints missing three players from their secondary, Kenny Pickett was just so-so in this contest and he only made one big play down the field (which came along the sideline to Diontae Johnson in the second half). Even with that play, the rookie quarterback managed just 199 passing yards on 30 attempts. His 6.6 yards per attempt is higher than his average, but still rather underwhelming — especially considering the opponent they were facing.
Combine this with the fact that the Steelers had two weeks to prepare to play the Saints, and it just wasn’t the convincing boost of confidence I would have liked to have seen.
Pickett’s career is still very young, and I know there is still time to impress. But for a team that desperately needs to prove themselves on offense, it was a little discouraging to see that the Steelers offense could only muster up 20 points despite rushing for 217 yards and a pair of scores and being plus two in the turnover department. The passing game simply must improve.