Game Day Matchups

Neal Coolong breaks down the top individual matchups in tonight's Steelers-Saints game in New Orleans.

FS Ryan Clark vs. QB Drew Brees

The Saints rushing yards per game are dropping like the temperatures in the Midwest. Through seven weeks, they're averaging 92.6 yards per game, good for 26th in the league. Pittsburgh has the league's top rush defense, surrendering 63.7 yards per game. With Brees completing 70 percent of his passes, the Steelers can expect one of the best in the business to throw the ball quite a bit. Brees is as successful throwing into a blitz as anyone else in the game, and will feed frequently on whatever the Steelers serve him.

Clark becomes critically important in that the Saints live and die with the big play. Brees has a bevy of playmakers at the wide receiver position, and Clark's discipline in providing deep middle coverage will force Brees to check down. Pittsburgh's best chance of winning this game will be to keep the suddenly turnover-prone Brees on the bench. It seems inherent New Orleans will rack up yards, but limiting Brees's looks at the end zone will determine the winner.

OLB James Harrison vs. LT Jermon Bushrod

Obviously there's been much ado about Harrison lately. Comments after the Steelers' victory at Miami indicated he's still upset with the league for being targeted for its current helmet-to-helmet witch hunt. Despite being praised by the NFL's discipline lieutenant, Ray Anderson, Harrison (and coach Mike Tomlin) weren't hearing it, and Harrison said his game was affected. He's got ample opportunity to affect the game in a positive way in New Orleans.

Bushrod has been less-than-adequate this season, allowing on average nearly three QB pressures a game. His ole-fest against Cleveland helped drop Brees to a career-high four interceptions, and doomed the Saints to a shocking home loss. The Browns bring pressure in a variety of ways, as did the Cardinals in their 30-20 victory in Week 5. The Steelers are kings of varied pressure, and will be targeting the struggling Bushrod.

QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. CB Jabari Greer

Roethlisberger has entered league MVP talk since his return from suspension, with the exception of his three fumbles against Miami. He's played incredibly tough, and has boosted the Steelers' offense close to dominance. What's better for the Steelers, he hasn't played the best game he's capable of playing yet. He's going up against the best passing defense he's seen so far, and with two games worth of hits, this will be the game Roethlisberger shows his value.

Greer is having arguably the best season of any cornerback in the game, and he did it mostly without playmaking FS Darren Sharper behind him. Sharper is working back to form after injuries kept him out the team's first six games. Greer has locked down his position, propelling the Saints to the league's third-ranked pass defense (179.7 yards per game). If he can play with his current injury, he'll likely spend time on both Hines Ward and Mike Wallace, and while Roethlisberger won't avoid him, he will have to identify him.


Steel City Insider Top Stories