As both teams took the field, the Pittsburgh Steelers were hoping to get a look at their first team offense, which included all of their major weapons in Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and Ben Roethlisberger, for the first time this year. Needless to say, it seems as though they’re already in mid-season form, playing an impeccable game and putting on quite the performance- so much so that Ben had the luxury of watching the remainder of the game without pads after two drives.
The New Orleans Saints, on the other hand, were hoping to see something out of their offense, as they had struggled mightily in their first two games.
The game began exactly how every Pittsburgh fan would love to see them play for the next six months, by meticulously stringing together a 74-yard drive capped off by a 5 yard Jesse James touchdown. Todd Haley put the ball in Ben’s hands, deciding to dust-off the no-huddle offense, accounting for 60 of those yards through 8-for-12 passing. Eli Rogers, who has become a popular name in Pittsburgh, caught a clutch third down conversion that kept the drive alive.
As if Steeler fans needed reassurance, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell look to be in mid-season form, in regards to both their timing and patience.
No time was wasted to get into the endzone on their second possession, as Brown took rookie cornerback De’Vante Harris to school. The drive began with an Brown-led wide-receiver screen, and he would eventually cap the drive four plays later with a 57-yard touchdown. Brown beat Harris, who was playing press coverage, and was able to locate the ball as Ben slung it out quickly. The rest was a walk in the park, and the Steelers were up 14-0 on their first two offensive possessions.
The New Orleans defense finally dented the Steelers’ offensive armor at the end of the first quarter, as cornerback Delvin Breaux dislodged the ball from Bell’s grip. The Saints recovered, and whipped together a 78-yard touchdown drive behind a few key screens, as the defense was struggling to find their footing (and the ball carrier). Drew Brees hit Willie Snead in the middle on a skinny post, who was able to get over Sean Davis and double clutch the ball as Mike Mitchell tried to jar it loose, making it 14-7.
After a stingy defensive output, and two offensive possessions later, Landry Jones channeled his inner Roethlisberger by leading a charge from the Pittsburgh 39 yard line into the endzone. After a huge third down conversion by tight end Xavier Grimble, Landry Jones found a wide-open Sammie Coates for his first catch of the game with an 8-yard corner route against Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro.
The Steelers went 6/8 on third down in the first half, and both Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones spread the ball around and hit 10 different receivers.
Although fans were ecstatic to see Javon Hargrave kick off the second half by beating Saints Center Jack Allen to sack quarterback Garrett Grayson, they weren’t thrilled to see Grayson come right back to toss a 31-yard touchdown to Tommylee Lewis, who beat second year cornerback Doran Grant on the play, making the game 21-14. Grant, who had an up-and-down game, seemed to be a lightning rod for big plays.
The Steelers’ seventh offensive possession started off with a bang, as Jones found Coates for a 57-yard reception, beating cornerback Damian Swann who was playing in tight single man coverage. Coates had an impressive game when his number was called, using both his hands to catch the ball and his size and positioning to force a few pass interferences. Ultimately, the drive would stall after an Xavier Grimble conversion was called back because of a penalty on B.J. Finney; Chris Boswell would have his first opportunity at a successful 40-yard field goal, making the game 24-14.
Vince Williams, who we know recently signed an extension this week, took out some of his excitement and adrenaline on Daniel Lasco, by [illegally] ploughing through the Saints running back. Lasco fumbled and Grant recovered, but it was all for not as the collision was ruled head-to-head and penalized. Vince Williams would eventually get a chance for redemption later in the drive on a fourth down, as he met Saints Tim Hightower at the line of scrimmage on the Pittsburgh 10-yard line, forcing a turnover on downs; to say he was fired up would be an understatement.
A few drives later, linebacker Steven Johnson picked-off Garret Grayson which would lead to Chris Boswell’s second successful field goal of 48-yards, making the game 27-14. Rookie linebacker Tyler Matakevich would join in on the fun, intercepting Grayson for a second time.
The Steelers put on a great performance for their third pre season game, and fans would hope that they will carry this success into the regular season. A great showing from some key players, and a good performance from players that are expected to make contributions this year on both sides of the ball.
The Steelers ultimately accumulated a total of 417 total yards against the Saints, while allowing 360. Moreover, they collected 17 total first downs, of which 13 were through the air; it’s safe to say the air attack was the center of attention this evening. They look to build on this effort against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday evening.