First and foremost on the count of Steeler ineptitude is the defense. The Saints spent more time kicking off the ball than punting because Pittsburgh could not stop the pass or the run. Aaron Brooks and company torched the Steeler secondary while RB Deuce McAllister gouged Pittsburgh's front seven. The Steelers had no answers for the Saints offense and New Orleans dominated the line of scrimmage most of the day.
NT Casey Hampton started out the game well and the Saints were forced to the outside most of the first half. Head coach Jim Haslett and his coaching staff made a second half adjustment, double teaming Hampton and opening up the middle of the field for McAllister. One big offensive play followed another and the Steelers defense failed to make a stand until it was too late.
The Steelers miss LB Kendrell Bell more than they would probably like to admit. The Steelers are not intimidating anybody.
Special teams were not abysmal, but the Saints were simply better. As the Saints and Steelers traded scores, New Orleans continued to start with at least 10-yards better field position. Just when Randle El had a seam, the Saints wrapped him up with a great tackle. New Orleans had a shorter field for the entire football game because the Steelers once again lost the special teams battle.
The Steelers showed some life on offense and scored 29 points. Running backs Jerome Bettis and Amos Zereoue both had "breakout" games while WR Hines Ward continues to bail out his quarterback, whether that person is Tommy Maddox or Kordell Stewart. The Saints were off-balance most of the game and the Steelers, at times, looked like their 2001 dominant selves.
The offense initially started out of sync with Maddox at the helm. Maddox was stripped of the football by rookie DE Charles Grant after RT Marvel Smith failed to move on the proper snap count. The offensive line would eventually come together, but their overall game was still uneven. Whatever mistakes the Steelers made would prove costly, including Maddox's interception towards the end of the game. Maddox made the cardinal sin of throwing late across the field and the Saints obliged by gobbling up the pop fly in the direction of Hines Ward.
Are the Steelers a running team or a passing team? This game did little to answer that question. Maddox does not put much zip on the ball and the Saints were often close to picking him off. Brooks looked much more composed back there (although, he often had all day to throw) and clearly poses more of a threat to a secondary than Maddox does. Plus, Bettis and Zereoue had strong games, which may signal a return to the 2001 offense.
LG Alan Faneca had a great game. His head was cut open and blood was all over his jersey. He sprung Bettis for Jerome's rushing touchdown and was the first one there to give the Bus a head-butt in celebration. Again, this seemed more old school than a new-look Steelers offense. The only difference Pittsburgh showed was the lack of a field goal attempt and the potent red zone offense. Mostly missing from this equation was the Steeler defense.
The Saints may have beat the Steelers on offense, defense and special teams, but the Steelers defense really has to be the goat. Maddox did well enough and at least the special teams did not give up a score. The defense did little all day, including generating a big zero in the turnover department. The Steelers continue to lose the turnover battle and continue to lose to the better teams in the league.
At the end of the day, the Steelers are 1-3. The Steelers looked like a 1-3 team today that is still in search of some direction. A lost-on-the-field Verron Haynes is more the soul of this Steeler team than the determined warrior, Kimo von Oelhoffen.