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Xtra Points

Steelers run past Saints, 20-10

With T.J. Watt returning this week off the Reserve/Injured List, the return of safety Damontae Kazee flew under the radar.

While Watt was activated on Saturday, Kazee, who had been out after fracturing his forearm in the team's final preseason game, was brought back to the 53-man roster earlier in the week.

But with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick undergoing an appendectomy on Saturday, Kazee's return was none too soon for the Steelers.

Kazee came up with a big interception in the fourth quarter, setting up a Kenny Pickett 1-yard touchdown run as the Steelers topped the New Orleans Saints, 20-10, at Acrisure Stadium on a day the team honored its 2022 Hall of Honor class.

"We just had a great week of practice and a great walkthrough and then it was, boom, 'Kazee, you're starting,'" Kazee said. "I was studying something else, but now I've got to go back to what I know. I had practiced with it, so I was alright."

With Watt and Kazee back, the Steelers defense had some of the bite it had been missing the past seven games it had played without that duo. Watt had been out since suffering a pectoral muscle injury in the team's season-opening 23-20 overtime win at Cincinnati, while Kazee was seeing his first action.

Watt had four tackles and a quarterback hit, just missing a sack on a scramble by Andy Dalton that went for a 1-yard gain, while Kazee had four tackles, the interception and another pass defensed.

Kazee's interception came off a pass that was intended for Saints wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Cornerback Levi Wallace got a hand on the ball, knocking it into the air and Kazee caught it as he closed on the play at the New Orleans 44.

Wallace also had an interception in the game, while the Steelers also got a pair of sacks from Alex Highsmith.

With the Steelers leading 13-10, Pickett directed the team in for a touchdown that was set up by a 26-yard catch-and-run by Jaylen Warren. The Saints also were called for pass interference in the end zone on a play to tight end Pat Freiermuth, putting the ball at the 1.

Pickett, who was sacked six times in the game, took care of things from there.

The Steelers (3-6) rushed for a season-high 217 yards in the game, with Pickett gaining 51 on eight attempts, while Najee Harris had a season-high 99 yards on 20 attempts . Jaylen Warren also chipped in 37 yards, as the Steelers rushed for more than 200 yards for the first time since Dec. 11, 2016 in a game at Buffalo.

"Quarterback mobility was a part of it," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of the rushing effort. "I thought Kenny did some good things with his legs. The runners ran hard, and we came off the ball as bigs up front."

It was a full-team effort and helped the Steelers roll up nearly 39 minutes in time of possession.

"Traditionally, when the weather gets colder, that's when you see teams start running the ball better," said guard James Daniels. "It was very good to be able to get the running game going. In the fourth quarter, you saw, our defense played lights out, but we were able to control the ball, our time of possession was a lot to a little. With our defense, you can win games like that."

The Steelers jumped out to a 10-0 lead, dominating the first quarter of play by holding the Saints (3-7) to just one first down.

Meanwhile, the Steelers went 57 yards for a touchdown on their second possession, converting a fourth-and-2 on a Pickett pass to Warren and scoring on a 1-yard run by George Pickens to take a 7-0 lead.

The Steelers scored again on their next possession, this time going 65 yards on eight plays, including a 36-yard run by Harris, to get a 33-yard field goal from Matthew Wright, signed earlier this week after Chris Boswell was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury.

Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 10 game against the New Orleans Saints at Acrisure Stadium

Harris had to leave the game briefly after the play and was evaluated for a concussion before being cleared to return.

The Saints finally got rolling midway through the second quarter, going 40 yards to get a 44-yard Will Lutz field goal, then closing out the half with a 6-play, 71-yard touchdown drive.

Andy Dalton capped the drive off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Juwan Johnson that tied the score at 10-10 with 19 seconds remaining in the first half.

The Steelers, however, forced a quick New Orleans punt to open the second half, then marched to the 10, but Pickett was sacked on first down and Wright missed a 39-yard field goal badly, giving the Saints the ball back at their own 29.

The Saints kicked the ball back, with Blake Gillkin's punt running out of bounds at the Pittsburgh 2. The Steelers drove 83 yards on 11 plays to get a 33-yard field goal from Wright for a 13-10 lead.

But the Steelers strung together an 83-yard drive before stalling inside the 20. Diontae Johnson caught a 36-yard pass down the sideline from Pickett to the New Orleans' 20, but after back-to-back Harris runs gave the Steelers third-and-2, Pickett was sacked on third down. Wright then booted a 33-yard field goal to put the Steelers ahead 13-10 with 13:43 remaining in the game.

The Steelers limited the Saints to just 186 yards in the game, including just 29 on the ground on 15 carries.

"I thought the run defense was really good," said defensive tackle Cam Heyward. "I think (it was) everybody just playing assignment football. ... The execution picked up in the run defense, and that led to sacks, a couple of sacks, and turnovers, as well."