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Steelers-Saints, Week 8

The last two Super Bowl champs meet Halloween night as the Steelers head down to New Orleans to take on the defending champs, the Saints. This game could turn out to be the Steelers first shoot out of the season. Or it could be a surprisingly low-scoring game.

– The Saints offense obviously revolves around QB Drew Brees. The Saints offense is ranked 5th in passing yards and just 26th in rushing yards. This matchup is interesting because most teams that face the Steelers defense will try to run the ball, usually fail, and then go the passing route. With injuries to Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, the Saints will probably only run the ball occasionally and put more focus on throwing it. This has the potential to be a big problem for the Steelers defense, which is ranked only 24th against the pass but 1st against the run. What’s sort of shocking and plays potentially into the Steelers favor is the Saints offense is just averaging 21 points per game so far. The key will be getting pressure on Brees, obviously. The Steelers could have problems in stopping Jeremy Shockey (especially if guys like Larry Foote and James Farrior are matched up against him) and look out for the deep ball to WR’s Robert Meachem and Marques Colston. Ryan Clark could be exposed in this game. If I were the Saints that is the player I go after.

– The Steelers offense faces a Saints defense that is surprisingly ranked 3rd in both total yards allowed and passing yards. Not bad. The Saints are ranked 16th against the run however. Because of this expect more 1st down rushes from the Steelers offense. It’ll be interesting to see how much the Steelers run and try to sustain long drives and control the clock. Chances are that won’t work, but don’t be surprised to see that approach. The Steelers have only 89 first downs this year which is near the very bottom of the league, just two more than the lowly Panthers and 9 less than the Bills. The Steelers, as always, will need to mix things up on early downs to actually sustain drives and be smart with the playcalling. The Steelers O-line will have to play better than last week against an aggressive Saints defense. One key matchup to look for is Doug Legursky against DT Sedrick Ellis in the passing game. Look for Mike Wallace to test yet another secondary. Will the Steelers throw to him deep more than once?

– Honestly, I don’t see the Steelers winning this game and call me crazy but that’s OK. This is a fun matchup, but the truth is it’s an inter-conference game, the least important kind of game on the schedule. The Saints just lost to the lowly Browns and will be totally amped for this game at home on primetime. With a surprising 4-3 record in a tough division, they may even view it as a must win.  The Steelers are 5-1 and may not give their best effort in this one. Don’t get me wrong, from the top to bottom, I think the Steelers are a better team but that doesn’t equal a win, especially in a game like this. Of course, the Steelers could very easily win this one. It should be a fun game.

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