SAINTS 20, STEELERS 10
Steelers' record: 5-2
One year ago: 5-2
Series record (including playoffs): Series tied, 7-7
This meeting between the last two Super Bowl champions meant more to the Saints, who came in at 4-3 after a home loss to the Cleveland Browns and in danger of falling into third place in the NFC South, but they were going to have to play it without their two best running backs – Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas – and their two starting cornerbacks – Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter.
Heath Miller was running through the New Orleans secondary with the ball and he was close to the Saints 30-yard line when Marvin Mitchell popped the ball free and Darren Sharper recovered. Instead of going in for the tying field goal or the go-ahead touchdown in a game where the Steelers trailed, 13-10, the turnover started the Saints on their clinching touchdown drive.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* The Saints were faced with a third-and-5 from the Steelers 31-yard line late in the first quarter when Lawrence Timmons deflected a pass intended for Julius Jones, who also took a hit from Troy Polamalu as the ball arrived. After the play, Jones took a shot at Polamalu and was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Instead of a chance to attempt a 48-yard field goal, the Saints chose to punt.
- After two fair catches by Antwaan Randle El, Coach Mike Tomlin switched it up and put Emmanuel Sanders back deep for the Saints' third punt. A nice block from Larry Foote got Sanders going, and he returned the punt 38 yards to the New Orleans 44-yard line with 20 seconds left in the first quarter.
- The Saints came into the game ranked No. 1 in the NFL in third down conversion percentage. They were 0-for-4 in the first quarter, and then they were 1-for-3 in the second quarter.
- On a third-and-14 midway through the second quarter, Drew Brees completed a pass to Devery Henderson, and only Ike Taylor's immediate tackle prevented him from making the first down. The Saints punted again.
- On the play immediately after the two-minute warning, Ike Taylor came off his man and intercepted a deep seam route intended for Henderson to give the Steelers possession at the New Orleans 36-yard line.
- A pass interference penalty on Troy Polamalu gave the Saints a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. After an incomplete pass to a tackle and two runs that lost a combined 4 yards, the Saints settled for a field goal and a 6-3 lead with 8:24 left in the third quarter.
- It was Heath Miller's block that sealed the edge to allow Rashard Mendenhall to go 38 yards for a touchdown to make it 13-10 with 10:48 left in the fourth quarter.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* On the Steelers' second punt, Stevenson Sylvester made a big hit on Lance Moore, and there also was a holding penalty on Jo-Lonn Dunbar. The sum total would have meant field position for the Saints inside their own 30-yard line, but an offsetting penalty on the Steelers – Anthony Madison was flagged for running out of bounds as a gunner – meant a re-kick. The Saints ended up with the ball at their 48-yard line.
- A Ben Roethlisberger pass to Antwaan Randle El originally was ruled a 12-yard touchdown play, but it was overturned on a replay challenge by Saints coach Sean Payton. The ball was placed on the 1-yard line; the Steelers ran the ball three straight times and settled for a 19-yard field goal by Jeff Reed for a 3-0 lead.
- The Steelers had a first down at the Saints 23-yard line when an offensive pass interference penalty on Hines Ward put the offense behind the chains. After three incomplete passes, Jeff Reed missed a 51-yard field goal attempt to give New Orleans possession at its 41-yard line. Garrett Hartley kicked a 31-yard field goal to tie the game, 3-3, at halftime.
- On a fourth-and-4 from the Saints 40-yard line late in the third quarter of a 6-3 game, the Steelers decided to go for it rather than attempt a 57-yard field goal or punt. A Roethlisberger pass was incomplete. The Saints took the ball with the good field position and needed 10 plays to score the touchdown that upped their lead to 13-3.