The Pittsburgh Steelers take a 21-7 lead into the second half after the offense led three touchdown drives, and the defense yielded one. Ben Roethlisberger connected on touchdown passes on both of his two drives, the first in the red zone to Jesse James, then on a 57-yard hit to Antonio Brown. Landry Jones also ended the half with a nice completion to Sammie Cotes in the back of the end zone.
Drew Brees for the Saints was consistently on point with his passing, particularly in the vertical game, and that was evident on his 17-yard touchdown pass to Willie Snead over Sean Davis. Lawrence Timmons was victimized multiple times despite being in decent position thanks to Brees’ precision.
More significant than the score, both Marcus Gilbert and Cameron Heyward left the game with injuries, as did Shamarko Thomas and Jacob Hagen. All have been ruled out, though there are no further updates.
Saints took the second half kickoff back to their 20. Tim Hightower ran up the middle on second down for a first down. A second-down run was enough to move the sticks. The first sack of the night was the property of Javon Hargrave, beating the center off the snap. On second and 18, however, Hightower was able to pick up seven through the right-side A gap in Hargrave’s alignment. On third and 11, a bubble screen was stopped by Vince Williams before the first down. Demarcus Ayers settled under the punt at the 20, but could only get to the 24 through traffic.
Daryl Richardson opened the second half with the second-team unit, but took a loss of four yards running to the right. He picked up one in a roundabout fashion, but Ryan Harris was flagged for a hold. Now second and 24, Ayers was able to make the first player miss on a bubble screen, but not the second, for a loss of one. He left injured after that play…perhaps to his ultimate rookie year destination on injured reserve? On third and literally a quarter of the field, the Steelers just settled for the draw, with Richardson on the carry and able to pick up most of the yardage, but still well shy of the first. Will Monday‘s punt was flagged out of bounds at the 37 of the Saints.
Garrett Grayson‘s first pass on the drive fell incomplete down the field. Doran Grant missed a tackle along the right sideline to help allow a first down on a play action pass. Williams nearly tripped up Hightower in the backfield, but the defense still swarmed for a stop at the line of scrimmage. On second down, Hargrave again beat he center clean off he snap, but Grayson’s pass was out very quickly an for a first down.
From the Steelers’ 35, Daniel Lasco picked up five off the left tackle. Grayson kept it on a bootleg and flushed right to hit Tommylee Lewis, beating Jordan Dangerfield to the goal line for the score, drawing 21-14 with the first blood of the second half.
Richardson improved his candidacy to stay on the roster beyond the first three games with a nice kick return, even though it was called back due to a penalty that did not affect the return.
Jones hit Sammie Coates deep down the field nearly in stride for a big gain, with the quarterback taking a shot on the throw. Ayers returned to the game as well, showing that his injury was minor. From the Saints’ 22, Richardson was torpedoed down at the line of scrimmage, but Xavier Grimble was docked for a holding call.
David Johnson went airborne after a short reception. Grimble added another short reception to set up third and long. On third and nine, a short dump off to Grimble yielded a first down, but a lineman got down the field too early to start blocking, resulting in another penalty, against center B.J. Finney. On third and 19, Richardson’s reception came nowhere near first-down yardage. Chris Boswell‘s first field goal attempt from 40 yards was comfortably good.
Grayson hit Hightower in the flat for a nice gain on first down after a touchback. On second and two, however, a flag for a false start negated most of that gain. Grant made the tackle on the second-down throw, reading the play quickly and hitting the receiver in the air, though he hung on to the ball. On third and three, Cadet just got enough for the first down over Anthony Chickillo and L.J. Fort.
Dangerfield nearly blew up a screen after evading an initial blocker, but he could not come in under control. The play gained a yard. On seonc down, Grayson got the ball off to Cadet for seven yards. On third and short, Cadet found space to move the chains up the middle.
Near midfield, Montell Garner was in coverage on a jump ball for Lewis, incomplete. It was not a good throw. On second down, Williams jarred the ball loose for a fumble, recovered by Grant and returned a long way, but it was a helmet-to-helmet hit, a hard hit obviously drawing a penalty. Williams will be docked in his paycheck, and the back, Lasco, stayed down on the ground in a scary moment. He eventually was able to get up and walk off the field under his own power, though clearly woozy.
Taking over again at the Steelers’ 30, Lavon Hooks made the tackle near the line of scrimmage. On second down, Garner was beaten to the first-down marker on a reception by Lewis. Hightower powered ahead for nine yards in front of a bluffed jet sweep behind the run. From the 10, Grayson was flushed right on play action and fired the ball toward a receiver. It was intercepted by Sean Davis, but well out of bounds. Hightower got the handoff on third and one and got only halfway there. On fourth and a foot, Williams was there first to make the stop again, another turnover on downs.
Jones remained in under center, from the 10, with Fitzgerald Toussaint now in, but picking up just two yards on first down. He got the handoff again to gain four, setting up a third and four. Toussaint picked up the blitz well as Jones looked for Coates down the sideline under pressure, incomplete, but drawing a blatant pass interference.
From the 35 now, Toussaint got the handoff but lost his footing in the backfield for a loss of four. Le’Veon Bell nearly lost his feet on this turf earlier in the game on his fumble. From the 31, he got the ball back on a screen for about half the yardage needed. On third and long, made even longer by a delay of game, Toussaint turned up the field on a screen, but trickled out of bounds just shy of the first-down marker. On fourth and short, they elected to forgo the conversion attempt, nursing a 10-point lead. The ensuing punt was fair caught at the 22.
Mathews got into the backfield on the first play, but the play gained two yards. Hargrave batted Grayson’s pass down to set up third and long. Mike Reilly nearly intercepted a screen pass to the left. Ayers set back to return the punt, making the first two tacklers miss, but still had nowhere to go. He did pick up a sizable gain on an end-around to the 42.
From there, a missed block from the fullback resulted in another negative run for Richardson. In the meantime, Bryn Renner checked into the game at quarterback, recently signed. He was sacked by Cortland Finnegan off a cornerback blitz on the following play, setting up a third and 24. Richardson just picked up a handful on a draw to end the drive as the game winds down to five minutes to play.
Steven Johnson made the tackle on a check down pass to the back after a three-yard gain, keeping it minimal. The pass was behind the back on the next play, and Johnson was there to pick it off.
Following the turnover, the Steelers took over at the Saints’ 38, and Toussaint gained about three on first down. Toussaint gained a few more off a jump cut to set up third and four. His third straight carry did not quite crack the 30-yard line, resulting in a three-and-out. Boswell connected from 48, another fairly comfortable make for the second-year man, to make it 27-14 with three POOTOS.
Grayson’s first pass after the turnover was wide, but the back snared it, with Johnson and Tyler Matakevich there to make the interception. Al-Hajj Shabazz recorded the pass deflection on an errant pass the next play. On third and five, Matakevich gave up the first down to the tight end. Pressure off the edge forced a quick pass to the back in the flat for an incompletion on the next play. On second down, Grayson threw directly to Matakevich for another interception as Grayson begins to crumble late.
After two quick carries picked up six yards, Renner clearly did not know where his back was lined up, and it resulted in a busted play. Richardson ran again on fourth down for a turnover on downs. Dangerfield put a big hit on the ball carrier on a head-to-head shot, which frankly I’m hoping to see less and less of. Ray Vinopal made the last tackle of the game as the Steelers finally came out with a win in the preseason.