The Saints lost to the Cleveland Browns. That probably has nothing to do with anything, but I just had to say it.
The Steelers travel to the Superdome this Sunday to take on the world champion New Orleans Saints (Did I mention that the Saints lost to the Cleveland Browns?). The game will be nationally televised, so the whole nation will get to see this one.
To be completely honest, last year I found myself rooting for the Saints. New Orleans had suffered the terrible tragedy of Hurricane Katrina a few years back, and the town was overdue for some good news. So once the Steelers were eliminated from the playoffs, I figured that I may as well root for the OTHER black and gold team.
But there are no such sentiments this year. The Saints are merely another roadblock on the Stairway to 7. So they must be destroyed.
The Steelers don’t play the Saints very often, so there’s no real rivalry between the two teams. In fact, the two teams have only played 13 times since they first met in 1967. The last time they faced one another was in 2006, when the Steelers won 38-31. But that was 4 years ago. Drew Brees was in his first year with the team, and Reggie Bush was an over-hyped rookie. A lot has changed since then.
It should probably be noted that the Steelers have not fared well in New Orleans. They’ve lost 2 of the last 3 games they’ve played there. Their last victory in New Orleans was actually in 1990.
So far, the Saints haven’t looked like the dominant team that we saw last year. They were undefeated at this time last year. This year, they’re 4-3, and look much more vulnerable than they did last year (After all, they did lose to the Cleveland Browns).
Two of their losses came to teams that the Steelers have beaten. They lost to the Atlanta Falcons 27-24 in week 3, and they lost to the Cleveland Browns 30-17 last week (can you believe that?).
Despite their record, New Orleans is not a team to be taken lightly. They have the 7th ranked offense in the NFL, and Reggie Bush has been in and out of the line-up due to injuries this year. He is expected to play against the Steelers.
Even more impressive is the fact that the Saints have the 3rd ranked defense in the NFL. For comparison, the Steelers are ranked #4. The Saints defense only gives up 288.4 yards per game. That’s pretty good.
I’m really not worried about Reggie Bush. The Steelers have defenders who are fast enough to contain him. They can have either Troy Polamalu or Lawrence Timmons shadow Bush, and that should keep him in check.
I’m much more worried about Drew Brees. Brees is one of the best passers in the NFL. We all watched Colt McCoy slice up the Steelers’ secondary in his very first NFL start. I’m a bit concerned about what Brees will do to them.
Saints QB Drew Brees
The Steelers’ cornerbacks have been a concern since last year. Ike Taylor doesn’t seem to be the shutdown corner that he once was. Bryant McFadden is great against the run, but he’s no Champ Bailey when it comes to pass defense. And William Gay is……..William Gay.
The safeties aren’t as big a concern as the cornerbacks. Troy Polamalu is still All-Universe, but Ryan Clark seems to have lost a step as well.
Opponents know that they can’t run on the Steelers. Those who try do so in vain. But they don’t have similar fears about passing on the Steelers. In fact, those who have watched the Steelers play know that passing against them is probably the best formula for beating them. And Drew Brees passes as well as any quarterback in the NFL.
I expect this to be a very close game. These are two very well-balanced team facing one another. Both teams have good offenses AND good defenses. So it’s really anybody’s game.
The Saints do have the advantage of playing at home, and as I mentioned earlier, the Steelers haven’t done well there lately.
But despite that, I believe the Steelers are going to emerge victorious. I predict that the Steelers defense is going to find a way to pressure Drew Brees, and that Mike Wallace is going to burn their defense for another 40+ yard touchdown (doesn’t he score one of those every game?).
I predict a final score of 27-21 in favor of the Steelers. 6-1, here we come!
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