NEW ORLEANS – Coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged the "tough environment" the Louisiana Superdome quickly became when the Steelers visited the Saints but added that playing under such conditions "comes with the territory when you're trying to be world champs."
Still, this was a whole new ballgame for the Steelers as far as the decibel levels were concerned, and it was a contributing factor in the 20-10 loss here that dropped their record to 5-2.
"It was worse than Indianapolis in 2005, the first time we played the Colts," offensive tackle Max Starks said. "This kind of reminded me of college (at the University of Florida).
"It was deafening."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger called the Superdome "one of the loudest places, probably the loudest place I've ever been in to play a game."
Dealing with the crowd noise was never more of a problem for the Steelers than it was on third downs during their 20-10 loss to the Saints on Sunday night.
The Steelers converted just 1-of-7 third-down attempts in the first half and only 3-of-10 throughout the game while possessing the ball for 25:54 and amassing 279 total net yards.
The Saints gained 318 total net yards while going 7-for-16 on third downs, including 6-for-9 in the final two quarters, and they also converted their only fourth down attempt of the night.
"When it gets to third down, it kind of gets complicated," tight end Heath Miller said. "When you get third-and-long they can bring all the exotic stuff (blitzes) and it's hard to communicate (the blocking schemes)."
Roethlisberger was sacked only three times but he was hurried and harassed with regularity while throwing for 195 yards and finishing with a passer rating of 66.8.
"There were times I was changing protections and guys couldn't hear me," Roethlisberger said. "I'm only 3 or 4 yards behind them."
Wide receiver Antwaan Randle El recognized "communication in the line and out to the receivers, getting stuff blocked," as a problem.
"We had a lot of different things we could have done and just didn't get done," he said. "A lot of 'coulda, woulda, shoulda.'"
The Steelers scored their only touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter on a 38-yard burst by running back Rashard Mendenhall and were driving again on their next possession until Miller fumbled and the Saints recovered.
Starks attributed their relative late-game success to an adjustment that helped make the crowd noise generated by the 70,011 on hand less of a factor.
"In the second half we kind of finally figured it out, calmed down and started to play a lot better," he said. "It was just too little, too late."
"It was loud," guard Trai Essex said. "But we practiced playing with the noise all week so it's not an excuse. Even toward the second half the noise wasn't as much of a factor once we got used to it.
"Where we plan on going there's going to be a lot of rowdy crowds. We gotta be ready for that."