Saints playoff hopes dwindle after loss against Steelers

Benny Greenspan, Staff Writer

saints steelers
Matthew Tate

After a rough loss at home against the Baltimore Ravens, the New Orleans Saints traveled to Pennsylvania to face a struggling Pittsburgh Steelers team in a critical game that could have kept the Saints in the hunt for the division. Unfortunately, a poor performance on both sides of the ball led to the Steelers beating the Saints 20-10

This game saw the return of star players on both teams as receiver Jarvis Landry returned to the Saints from an ankle injury that had kept him out since week four. Landry finished with just three catches for 37 yards in the game. TJ Watt — the previous defensive player of the year — also returned to play his first game since week one after missing time with a pectoral injury. Watt finished the game without a sack, but his impact was immediately felt as he drew multiple Saints offensive linemen every time he stepped on the field.

The addition of TJ Watt to the Steelers defense only created more chaos in an already inconsistent Saints offense, beginning with quarterback Andy Dalton. Despite some good moments, including a solid drive that resulted in the sole Saints touchdown from tight end Juwan Johnson at the end of the first half, Dalton’s shakey play continued against the Steelers. He finished the game with under 200 yards, two interceptions and two fumbles that luckily were recovered by his own team. Dalton’s performance only adds to the overarching storyline of quarterback troubles that have been haunting the Saints all year.

The Saints’ offensive hardships also prevented the team from capitalizing on the Steelers’ miscues; Steelers kicker Matthew Wright finished the game with two missed field goals, setting the Saints offense up with a good field position. 

The normally strong Saints’ defense struggled against a weak Pittsburgh offense. This was mainly due to penalties, as the Saints finished the game with 10 penalties for 74 yards. The Steelers also established a strong ground attack, with Najee Harris finishing the game with 99 yards and the team rushing for 217 total yards with contributions from Kenny Pickett and Jaylen Warren. 

Their record now at 3-7, the Saints find themselves three games behind the division leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who currently have the tiebreaking win against the Saints. Winning the division is the only path at this point for the Saints to make the playoffs, given they are five games behind the current seven seed, which the San Francisco 49ers currently hold. 

Self-inflicted wounds through penalties and turnovers have hurt the Saints on both ends throughout the season and must be avoided if the Saints hope to win games and push for a miraculous run into the postseason. If not, it might soon be time to look ahead onto the upcoming draft, which happens to be stacked with quarterback prospects that can elevate this roster. 

The Saints will look to bounce back against a struggling Los Angeles Rams team at home this Sunday. The game will be at noon CT and televised on Fox.

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