The only team Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin hadn’t beaten heading into Sunday was the New Orleans Saints. That is no longer the case, as the Steelers dominated on the ground and were able to leave Acrisure Stadium with a 20-10 win coming out of their bye.
Pittsburgh opened the game with possession, and on first down QB Kenny Pickett threw behind WR George Pickens and was incomplete. On 3rd and 6 though, he was on the money to Pickens who made a contested catch for a gain of 14 and a first down. That would be the highlight of the drive for Pittsburgh though, as CB Chris Harris Jr. broke up a 3rd and 7 pass to TE Pat Freiermuth and the Steelers punted. P Pressley Harvin III punt was fair caught at the New Orleans 9.
The Pittsburgh defense came out on the field in what was OLB T.J. Watt’s first game since Week 1. The Saints got flagged for a false start on their first play of the drive, and on 1st and 14, RB Alvin Kamara was stuffed for no gain by Watt and DL Cameron Heyward. The Saints went three-and-out and WR Steven Sims fair caught the ensuing punt at the Pittsburgh 43, so the Steelers would have good field position for their second drive.
Five and seven-yard runs by RB Najee Harris helped Pittsburgh pick up a first down, but Pickett was sacked by Harris Jr. on the next play. On 3rd and 13, Pickett hit Freiermuth for a gain of 11 and the Steelers kept the offense on the field on 4th down. Pickett went to rookie RB Jaylen Warren on 4th down, and he caught a swing pass out of the backfield for a gain of seven and a first. Pass interference on Saints CB Alontae Taylor gave Pittsburgh another first down, this one inside the red zone.
On 2nd and 10, WR Diontae Johnson picked up 11 yards and a first down, and two plays later Harris got Pittsburgh down to the one-yard line with a five-yard run. On third-and-goal, the Steelers ran a jet to Pickens and he got over the goal line for a touchdown. K Matthew Wright nailed the extra point, and the Steelers took a 7-0 lead with 5:06 to play.
Holding against New Orleans on the kick return led to their second drive starting at their 10-yard line. On 2nd and 7, QB Andy Dalton avoided pressure and dumped it off to TE Adam Trautman who ran for a gain of 18. That was the only first down on the drive for New Orleans as they couldn’t convert on 3rd and 9 were forced to punt for the second time. P Blake Gillikan’s punt went into the end zone for a touchback.
On 3rd and 8, Pickett’s pass to Johnson was incomplete but the Saints were flagged for roughing the passer and the Steelers got a new set of downs. On the next play, Pickett went back to Johnson for a gain of seven, and then the Pittsburgh run game finally broke through with a 35-yard run by Harris down to the New Orleans 20. The Steelers wouldn’t get another first down, and Wright hit from 33 to give the Steelers a 10-0 lead with 14:17 left in the first half.
A 12-yard completion to WR Chris Olave was all the Saints would get, as on 3rd and 7 Dalton went deep to Olave and CB Arthur Maulet made an incredible effort to break the pass up and knock it out of Olave’s hands. The Saints punted, and the Steelers drive started on their own 11 after a fair catch by Sims.
Pittsburgh went three-and-out, and Harvin’s punt traveled 48 yards to the New Orleans 34. Kamara ran for 13 yards on the first play of the drive, and then Dalton and WR Jarvis Landry connected for another first down. On 3rd and 7, Dalton avoided pressure and threw to WR Rashid Shaheed who made a nice catch for a 12-yard gain and a first down. That would be New Orleans’ last first down of the drive, and they settled for a 44-yard Wil Lutz field goal to cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 10-3 with 6:40 left in the first half.
On 2nd and 9, Saints CB Paulson Adebo was flagged for pass interference and the Steelers got a first down. A run by FB Derek Watt later in the drive went for another first down, and a few plays later a screen to Sims gained 15 yards. On 3rd and 5 from the New Orleans 37, Pickett got sacked by LB Kaden Elliss for a loss of seven. Pittsburgh punted, and a kick catch interference call against CB James Pierre led New Orleans to open the drive on their own 49.
After a completion to Landry on first down, OLB Alex Highsmith got home for a sack, but on 2nd and 18 Olave gained 14 and the Saints got a first down on 3rd and 4. On 2nd and 2 from the Pittsburgh 30, Dalton went deep to Olave but S Damontae Kazee went high and got flagged for unnecessary roughness, and on the next play TE Juwan Johnson caught his third pass of the drive, this one going for a touchdown. The Saints tied things up at 10-10 with 19 seconds left in the half.
Pittsburgh didn’t score after the kickoff, and they went into the half tied 10-10.
The Saints received the second-half kickoff, but Landry was flagged for offensive pass interference on first down. On 3rd and 12, Dalton was incomplete intended for Trautman, and the Saints punted. Holding on the punt return against Pittsburgh would start their first drive of the second half at their own 15.
Pickett scrambled for 23 yards on first down, and then Harris for another five to move the Steelers to the New Orleans 43. On 3rd and 3, Pickett went to Pickens over the middle of the field in a tight window for a gain of 12 and a first down, and then Pickens took an end-around 22 yards. Defensive holding against Alontae Taylor gave Pittsburgh another first down. However, Pickett retreated under pressure and ended up getting sacked for a loss of 11. On 2nd and Goal from the 21, Harris couldn’t come down with a pass in the end zone, and on 3rd down Pickett made an awful throw to Sims on a screen that was incomplete. Wright came out for a 39-yard field goal and was no good as he went wide left. The game remained tied 10-10 with 8:55 left in the 3rd.
On 3rd and 10, Olave made a catch in traffic to gain 14 yards and a first down. That would be all they would get though, as the Saints came out to punt after failing to pick up a first down the rest of the drive. Gillikan’s punt took a crazy bounce that went out of bounds at the Pittsburgh two-yard line, so that’s where they would start their next drive, needing to drive 98 yards for a touchdown.
On 2nd and 9, Pickett went to TE Connor Heyward who gained eight yards, and on 3rd and 1 Pickett picked up three yards and a first down on a QB sneak. On the next play, Freiermuth made a one-handed catch for a 12-yard gain. Illegal use of hands against the Saints gave the Steelers a new set of downs, and then Harris broke off a 10-yard run. Pickett went deep down the right sideline and connected with Johnson for 36 yards and a first down at the New Orleans 20.
On 3rd and 2 from the New Orleans 12, Pickett was sacked by DL Kentravius Street for a loss of two. Wright came out and hit a 33-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 13-10 lead with 13:43 left in the game.
On 3rd and 5 for the Saints, Kazee made his presence felt in his Steelers debut as he picked off Dalton’s pass intended for Landry, and the Steelers took over at the New Orleans 44. On the next play though, the Steelers had a scare as Harris fumbled but it was recovered by OT Chukwuma Okorafor and Pittsburgh kept possession. Pickett found Jaylen Warren wide open on the next play and Warren made guys miss as he tiptoed along the sideline for a 26 yard gain, the Steelers fifth explosive play of the game. On 3rd and 6 from the New Orleans 12, Pickett went back to Warren and he gained just enough for a first down.
On 3rd and Goal, Pickett went to Freiermuth in the end zone, and while his pass was incomplete, Adebo was flagged for defensive pass interference and the Steelers had a new set of downs at the one-yard line. Pickett scored his 3rd rushing touchdown of the year on a QB sneak, and after Wright’s extra-point, the Steelers led 20-10.
Landry picked up nine yards on first down, and the Saints were stuffed on a 3rd and 1 run and then the Steelers stopped the QB sneak on 4th and 1 to force the turnover on downs. The Steelers took over at the Saints 34, leading by 10 with 7:44 to go. Pittsburgh couldn’t capitalize on the plus field position, as Pickett was sacked on second down and on 3rd and 13, Freiermuth could only gain seven yards. Wright then missed a 48-yard field goal, so the Saints got the ball back with 5:33 left.
Highsmith picked up his second sack of the game on the Saints’ first play of their drive, and two plays later Levi Wallace picked Dalton off for the Steelers’ second takeaway of the game. With 4:23 left in the game, Pittsburgh would be in control with the ball on their 26. They got a first down on a run by Sims, and on 3rd and 8 after the two-minute warning, Warren ran for 21 yards and a first down, the Steelers’ fourth run of 20+ yards on the day. Later in the drive, Harris ran for five yards on 2nd and 6, and on 3rd and 1, Derek Watt clinched the game with a first down run and the Steelers kneeled out the clock.
The win elevates the Steelers to 3-6, and they will stay at Acrisure Stadium next week when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals.