Hangover Bowl

The Steelers can feel the New Orleans Saints' pain in tonight's game pitting the last two Super Bowl winners.

It's been nearly a decade since the previous two Super Bowl winners have met in the regular season.

So, it's been nearly a decade since reporters could really dig into the underpinnings of a "Super Bowl Hangover."

The Steelers (5-1) went through it last season when they needed to win their final three games just to finish over .500. The New Orleans Saints (4-3) are going through it this year, having already lost as many games as they did during last season's Super Bowl march.

The Hangover Bowl will begin tonight at 8:20 at the Superdome.

"The New Orleans media asked me about it and I forgot we were the (champions) before them," said Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "And that's how – you just move on and go on."

The Steelers clearly have moved on, but it took them a full year, as the Saints are finding out.

"It's human nature," said Saints quarterback Drew Brees. "After you experience that kind of success you tend to relax. You feel like you arrived, that you don't need to get any better. You've achieved what you set out to achieve."

Brees did say the Saints are committed to turning it around this season, but they'll have to fix the causes of their problem. As with the Steelers last season, those core problems appear to be injuries and turnovers.

Last season, the Steelers' turnover differential dipped to -3 from +4 in 2008. They also struggled with injuries to Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith, among others.

The Saints this year have a turnover differential of -5, off from their +11 of last season, and their struggles with injuries have plenty to do with that reversal.

Free safety Darren Sharper co-led the NFL with nine interceptions last season, but he just came off the PUP list last week. Mike Tomlin's former college teammate is back and healthy for tonight's game, but starting Saints cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter, who combined for six interceptions last season, are doubtful and questionable, respectively, for tonight's game.

Greer injured his shoulder last week, while Porter, the Super Bowl hero, has missed the last three games after undergoing knee surgery. Greer most likely won't play, but Porter practiced the last two days and will be a game-time decision.

The Saints' underrated running game from 2009 has also been ravaged by injuries. All of the team's top four rushers from 2009 have missed at least the last month of action. Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush and Lynell Hamilton (IR) are injured and have been ruled out of tonight's game, and Mike Bell signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a restricted free agent during the offseason.

The Saints were 6th in yards rushing and 7th in yards per carry last season. They now rank 26th and 20th in those categories and will line up tonight with undrafted rookie Chris Ivory (Tiffin) and street free agents Ladell Betts Julius Jones in their backfield.

Of course, the lack of a running attack should force Brees to take advantage of a matchup against a Steelers' secondary that allows QBs to complete 66.2 percent of their passes, 28th in the NFL. Brees leads the NFL with a completion percentage of 69.7.

"You really can't get caught up in the numbers as some people do, or get caught up in what you're not doing," said Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden. "At the end of the day the best statistic is points allowed, and right now we're doing a good job of that."

The Steelers allow the fewest points per game (13.7), but they haven't faced a quarterback as skillful as Brees. He's the player who gives hope to the Saints, who're on the right side of the 5-0 record the more recent Super Bowl champs hold in NFC-AFC meetings against the previous year's champs.

"It doesn't get any bigger," said Saints coach Sean Payton. "I think it will be a great atmosphere, two very good teams, Halloween night in New Orleans. It should be crazy."

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