This is the Steel City Blitz Three-Point Stance. Your quick-hitting reference guide to everything you need to know about the Steelers and Saints in their week 16 match-up. It is sponsored by Nail the Number: The Fight Against Cancer.
What: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1) at New Orleans Saints (12-2)
Where: Mercedes Superdome New Orleans, LA
When: 425pm ET Sunday December 23rd, 2018
Weather: It’s in a dome!
Line: Saints -6.5
Last Week: The Saints defeated the Panthers in Carolina 12-9 while the Steelers beat the Patriots 17-10 in Pittsburgh.
TV: CBS Jim Nantz, Tony Romo and Tracy Wolfson on the sidelines.
TV Coverage in Your Area: Check out 506sports.com but in most areas you should be getting the game.
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio/WDVE Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley on the sidelines.
Head Official: Craig Wrolstad
Key Injuries: PIT: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (Groin) – Questionable, RB James Conner (Ankle) – Out NO: T Jermon Bushrod (Hamstring) – Out
2018 NFL Ranks:
Total Offense: PIT 4th NO 7th Passing Offense: PIT 3rd, NO 11th Rushing Offense: PIT 30th, NO 8th
Total Defense: PIT 6th, NO 1st Passing Defense: PIT 13th, NO 28th Rushing Defense: PIT 6th, NO 1st
AFC North Rankings: Pittsburgh 8-5-1 Baltimore 8-6, Cincinnati 6-8, Cleveland 6-7-1
This Week in the AFC North: Baltimore at LA Chargers 820pm (SAT), Cincinnati at Cleveland 1pm
What You Need to Know: Ben Roethlisberger reached 30 touchdown passes in a season for the third time in his career… Vance McDonald caught his 4th TD pass of the season tying a career high… The Steelers secured a non-losing season for the 15th straight year… Antonio Brown tied his own mark of 13 TD passes in a season – a Steelers’ record… The last time the Steelers and Saints played in December was 1990 and resulted in a 9-6 win for the Steelers in New Orleans.
What’s at Stake: The Saints need one win to clinch home-field advantage in the NFC. The Steelers have to win in order to keep their half-game lead over the Ravens. With Baltimore playing on Saturday night, the Steelers will know exactly what situation they are in on Sunday afternoon. A Ravens’ loss coupled with a Steelers win would give Pittsburgh the AFC North title.
All-Time Series: Saints lead 8-7 and lead 5-4 in New Orleans
Last (Regular Season) Meeting: November 30th, 2014 in Pittsburgh. Saints 35 Steelers 32
Series Highs: PASSING: Steelers Ben Roethlisberger 435 yards 11/30/2014, Saints Drew Brees 398 yards 11/12/2006 RUSHING: Steelers Willie Parker 213 yards 11/12/2006, Saints Deuce McAllister 123 yards 10/6/2002 RECEIVING: Steelers Le’Veon Bell 159 yards 11/30/2014, Saints Marques Colston 169 yards 11/12/2006
Three Things We Need to See for a Steelers’ Victory:
Don’t Completely Abandon the Run. The Saints not only have the best run defense in the NFL but they also give up just 3.7 yards per carry which is good for second in the League. Ben Roethlisberger has already thrown the ball more than any other quarterback this season and I expect to see lots of throwing this week too. But… Randy Fichtner can’t totally abandon the run. While the Saints rank near the bottom against the pass, the use of play-action is still important. Pittsburgh has to keep the threat of the run alive throughout the game in order to keep the Saints’ defense off balance. Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley are more than capable behind this offensive line.
Make the Saints’ Offense Work for Everything. This is the most dynamic offense the Steelers have faced since Kansas City and the defense could not do anything early on to slow them down. They must learn from that lesson and apply it here. Keith Butler has to keep Drew Brees guessing. He must change coverages and bring blitzers from multiple places. At the same time the Steelers cannot let Alvin Kamara or Mark Ingram beat them with big runs. This is a monumental task facing the defense but if they keep things in front of them and create some early splash plays then anything’s possible.
Win on Special Teams. The Saints have a very good unit on Special Teams. Danny Smith had better be on his ‘gum-chewin’ game because New Orleans can get big returns and block kicks too. Mike Tomlin is all-in on Chris Boswell and this game will excellent conditions for kicking. No turning back now so it’s Boswell or bust. As good as the Saints’ D is, the Steelers cannot afford those ticky-tack penalties on punt and kick returns. There’s a huge difference between starting at your own 30 and starting drives at your own 15. This week is a huge opportunity for Danny Smith to prove his worth.
Prediction: I’ve been dead wrong the last two weeks about this team and I hope I’m wrong again. This will be an incredibly difficult environment to play in on Sunday and the Steelers cannot afford mistakes. With Conner out and JuJu likely not 100% I have serious concerns about trying to keep up with the Saints. I don’t think there will be enough firepower.
Saints 27 Steelers 23
Season Prediction Record: 8-6