After defeating the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers will not be afforded any time to catch their breath as they travel to New Orleans to take on the 12-2 Saints. The Steelers still control their own destiny but they are going to need a similar defensive performance to shut down the Saints’ offense. Here are all the numbers you will need to know heading into Sunday’s game.
3.23 – This week’s By The Numbers may as well be renamed the Drew Brees edition because his name will be coming up a lot. The Saints’ quarterback is having a season for the ages, bolstered by the fact that his jersey has been kept clean for majority of the season. His 3.23 sack percentage is second in the NFL but that could change this weekend. The Saints have numerous injuries on the offensive line heading into this week and they are a unit that has allowed six sacks over the last four games. Look for guys like T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt to build off their last performance against an ailing Saints’ offensive line.
16.7 – The Saints have a scary offense, one that has Drew Brees front and center in the conversation for league MVP but they have struggled over the last bit. The Saints are 2-1 over their last three games but have only averaged 16.7 points per game during this span. Here is the catch though, all three of those games were on the road. The Saints will be back home Sunday to take on the Steelers and are averaging 38 points per game at home. After a defensive effort for the ages against the Patriots, the Steelers are going to have to find a way to replicate that formula against the Saints.
20 – The Steelers’ defense is one that thrives not on takeaways but on forcing opponents to go three and out. Getting off the field has a direct correlation to the team’s winning percentage this season, as the Steelers are 2-4-1 when allowing 20 or more first downs. They will have to find a way to get the Saints’ offense off the field as they have been averaging 24 first downs per game. A silver lining though is that the Saints have struggled moving the chains as of late, failing to surpass 20 first downs in three of their last four games. It will not be easy but Keith Butler is going to have to find a game plan to get the Saints off the field.
139.1 – There is no doubt about it, Brees has been in a league of his own this season but when he plays at home, Brees becomes almost super human. His 139.1 passer rating at home means the Steelers’ defense will be up against a final-boss like difficulty this Sunday. In New Orleans, Brees has completed 77.7% of his passes while throwing 20 touchdown passes to just one interception. The Steelers’ defense may have to look for other ways to make plays as it seems that the Saints’ quarterback is as close to perfect as one can be at the Superdome.
415 – The Saints do not have the best depth behind wide receiver Michael Thomas but what they do have is a talented pass catching running back out of the backfield in Alvin Kamara. The sophomore running back only trails Thomas in receptions (77) and receiving yards (627) and will be a big challenge for the Pittsburgh defense this Sunday. Believe it or not though, the Steelers have done a great job at limiting opposing running backs in the passing game, holding running backs to just 415 yards this season, good for third fewest in the NFL.