Folks, I want to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers vs New Orleans Saints. I know what you are thinking, here we go another salty article about the Steelers. Well, this is not going to be one of those so sit back and take it all in. Keep in mind that the opinions expressed in this article are my own and is just that, my 2 cents.
At 3-6 coming off the Bye-Week the Steelers laid out an impressive win against a team that perhaps plays with more reckless abandon than the Steelers when it comes to the yellow hankies littering the field for an unprecedented number of accepted penalties against the New Orleans Saints. This was by far the best outing for Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada, with over 200 yards on the ground, and only one that is right one accepted Illegal Formation penalty for the Steelers. Now I do not know about yinz, but that is impressive considering what the offensive output of this team has been throughout this season so far. So, for this to be the best so far for “Safari Hat Matt” is really saying something. Not to mention that Kenny Pickett did not turn the ball over.
Welcome back (on a snap count) TJ Watt to a much-maligned Defense, since going down at the beginning of the season with a torn peck. Also welcome to the team Mr. Damontae Kazee who in replacement of Minkah Fitzpatrick, out with an emergency appendectomy, managed to snag a timely interception of Saints QB Andy Dalton. Now I am going to say that the Defense overall played much better with TJ Watt on the field as Alex Highsmith was able to shed some double teams and get home to the QB for two sacks against the Saints. It was almost like they did not miss #39 Magic Minkah Fitzpatrick out there. New Orleans were held to being one-dimensional, with the Steelers Defensive line taking Alvin Kamara, the Saints leading rusher, out of the game all together forcing QB Andy Dalton to put it on his arm.
Gosh special teams played well, the offense did not turn the ball over, nor did they get penalized for the usual 5-6 Illegal Formation/Down Field/Shift calls that have beleaguered this team so far this season. Kenny Pickett had one of his best days as the starting QB for the Steelers in my opinion. He made smart plays and seemed a little more on the same page as everyone else. Not to mention that Najee Harris with 20 carries for 99 yards and Jaylen Warren 3 catches 40 yards and 9 carries for 37 yards each had phenomenal days. The O-Line was getting some blocks and doing enough to allow the running backs to get to the second level. This combined with TJ Watt lacing it up and the Defense spending 35% less time on the field, plus finally putting some pressure on the opposition’s QB made this game a good team win! Now if we could only have a Bye-Week and Pigeons every week then the Steelers could win a few more.
Oh, come on you knew this was coming…this is the part now when I tell you what scared me during this game. Oh and a few other points as well. But let’s get to the scary part and that was the hit that Running Back Najee Harris took at the end of the long run. Looking at the tape, it is clearly a helmet to helmet hit, the crown of the helmet was used and the defender left his feet. Harris was hit squarely in the chops during the play and even went to the Blue Tent for a few minutes. To me these are the things that need to be removed from the game. Running Backs are not allowed to use the crown of the helmet and it should be that way across the board. I feel that that play would have been a “targeting” call on the defender and it was not called. I am seeing this more and more across the NFL and it is not the correct technique for tackling. You always keep your head up, wrap your arms and drive to the ground, not leading with the crown of the helmet. These need to be called and need to be addressed as these could lead to major injuries not only to the Running Back but also to the Defender.
After watching the tape, you can clearly see times the Steelers offense being blown off the ball and or missing blocks or assignments and there are a lot of things that still need to be improved upon in the coming weeks. This was not a perfect win by any stretch of the word but a win is a win and those are what this is all about. This may not be the year for the Steelers, but at least we can hope for improved play over the next coming weeks, at least I hope so!!