by John Marcase
Nov 14, 2022
Here we go again??
One friend called Sunday’s game between the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers “mediocre teams doing mediocre things.”
My retort? They each have to improve to reach mediocrity.
Another friend said first-year Saints coach Dennis Allen is like a bad substitute teacher.
Bad is a good word to describe what the New Orleans Saints are this season.
Bleak would be another.
There is no sugar coating what is happening with the Saints after they lost at Pittsburgh, 20-10, to fall to 3-7.
Yes, gripe all you want about the bogus pass interference call midway through the fourth quarter that allowed the Steelers to score their final touchdown. But you can’t explain these numbers:
186 total yards
That is all the Saints could muster against Pittsburgh’s beleaguered defense, which received a giant boost in the return of reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt. Watt was injured late in the Steelers’ season-opening win at Cincinnati. They haven’t been the same on defense until Sunday, even without star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
As bad as the offense was, the Saints defense was worse … much worse.
Pittsburgh gained 379 yards offense, including a season-high 217 rushing. It marked the first time in six seasons Pittsburgh surpassed 200 yards rushing in a game. Najee Harris, who has been a disappointment since being drafted in the first round in the 2021 Draft, recorded his season-high in rushing with 99 yards, 25 yards more than in any previous game this season.
Even Steeler rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett managed to avoid throwing an interception.
All of that is great if you are a Steelers fan. Like me. There is hope on the horizon. Pickett is a first-round quarterback who is growing with each game. Pittsburgh’s defense, when healthy, is stout and much improved over what the Steelers employed the past few seasons.
The Steelers’ biggest weakness is their offensive line. Hopefully, that will be addressed in upcoming drafts.
The Saints have few prospects for their immediate future. They are consistently up against the NFL salary cap. Worse, they need a new franchise quarterback to replace Drew Brees and don’t have a first-round pick in the 2023 quarterback heavy draft after trading it to the Eagles last season.
Last year, Sean Payton kept the Saints competitive and in contention for the playoffs due to his coaching acumen. It is why he will be in high demand should he decide to return to coaching for the 2023 season.
The Saints don’t have that on the sidelines in Dennis Allen. He may have been a great defensive coordinator, but he is lacking as a head coach. His 8-28 record with the Raiders speaks for itself.
So does the curious in-game management the Saints are experiencing. After the Steelers went up 20-10, the Saints faced a fourth-and-one at their 34. Quarterback Andy Dalton kept it on a sneak and was stuffed. Taysom Hill would’ve been a better choice for a quarterback keeper than Dalton. In truth, practically anyone else on the Saints’ roster would’ve been a better choice to gain a yard. Like Alvin Kamara. He and Hill combined for 11 rushing attempts.
Plus, six times the Saints committed penalties that gave Pittsburgh a first down.
All are signs of a team that not only lacks discipline, but one that is poorly coached.
The Saints mortgaged the future in a desperate attempt to win Drew Brees a second Super Bowl. You can’t really blame them.
Only now, the mortgage is due and there is little hope on the horizon for the Saints. Sunday against a poor Steelers’ team made that clear.
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