New Orleans Saints 4-7 at Pittsburgh Steelers 7-4
TV: FOX, Thom Brennaman, Donovan McNabb
RADIO: WDVE, Steelers Nation Radio Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin, Craig Wolfley
LINE: Steelers -3
The Pittsburgh Steelers enter week 13 off of their bye week while the New Orleans Saints enter on a three-game losing streak. All of the Saints’ losses were at home. Pittsburgh is tied with the other three teams in the division at seven wins apiece while the Saints are tied atop of the NFC South with Atlanta at 4-7.
In order for the Steelers to get the win at Heinz Field here are the three things we’re looking for…
1. Limit the impact of Jimmy Graham. Here’s a news flash; the Steelers don’t cover tight ends well at all. They’ve given up eight touchdown receptions and over 550 yards receiving to opposing tight ends this season and that ranks them near the bottom in those areas. What’s potentially worse is that the tight ends that have victimized the Steelers aren’t exactly the best in the game.
Guys like Jace Amaro, Jordan Cameron and Chase Coffman have thrived against the Dick LeBeau-led defense. The return of Troy Polamalu will help here but what Drew Brees will be looking for at the line will be who is locked on Graham. If he sees a linebacker then I suspect that’s where he’ll be going.
The Steelers don’t have to shut down Graham and I believe that they won’t for that matter, but they need to limit his catches and impact especially in the red zone.
2. Can the Offensive Line put it all together? Last time we saw the Steelers in action was on a Monday night in Tennessee where Le’Veon Bell rushed for over 200 yards behind an O-line that wore down the Titans. That was the good news… Tennessee got tremendous pressure through the ‘A’ gaps all evening and sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times.
Right tackle Marcus Gilbert will be sitting this one out with a bad ankle which means Mike Adams gets the start. In the six quarters Adams has played he has yet to give up a sack. Perhaps a sign that Mike Munchak’s tutelage is paying off.
Adams and the rest of the O-Line will be tested by Rob Ryan’s defense which will bring defenders from all over and you can bet up the middle. Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster and David DeCastro need to be better up the middle than last week.
3. Josh Harris has to be a factor. I am not expecting Josh Harris to come in and run ten times for 35 or 40 yards in any way, shape or form, but he must be productive when he fills in for Bell. Two weeks ago, Bell rushed 33 times and caught a few passes as well. Personally, I don’t believe that Bell can handle that load every week and still be productive by the end of the season.
With LeGarrette Blount in New England, Josh Harris will be called upon. The Steelers cannot rely on Dri Archer to be the second back simply because of blitz pick-up responsibilities. Will we see more Archer? Probably, but I believe Harris has to be a key contributor right away and we’ll find out quickly if he is up to the task.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteelDad and the website @SCBlitz. Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/steelcityblitz and on Fancred.com. You can hear him weekly during the season on game day on the Trib-Live Radio Steelers Pre-Game