Saints poor again in loss at Steelers

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A pair of cold teams wearing black and gold got together Sunday afternoon in the cold of Pittsburgh.

One would heat up as the afternoon progressed while the other went cold as ice.

Andy Dalton, who spent most of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, was extremely familiar with facing the Steelers, including in Pittsburgh.

That was the good news.

The bad news is that Dalton was 3-13 as a starting quarterback in Pittsburgh, as a visitor.

He is now 3-14.

It was the 250th game as a head coach of the Steelers for Mike Tomlin.

The Steelers had not held an opponent to under 200 yards of offense in the last four season. They did on this day.

The Saints were facing a rookie quarterback who came in with two touchdown passes and eight interceptions. That did not matter.

There were pigeons, a group of them, on the natural grass playing surface during the game.

When action would approach, the pigeons would fly away.

The slim chances of the New Orleans Saints having a successful season may have flown away on this day.

Here are my Quick Takes on the 20-10 loss to the Steelers:

**Once again, the banged-up Saints were missing several key players, including starters Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Pete Werner, Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Maye **and Marcus Davenport, along with Mark Ingram.

T.J. Watt returned for Pittsburgh while Minkah Fitzpatrick was out.

**In a bit of a surprise, Josh Andrews started at center with Cesar Ruiz playing right guard and Lewis Kidd at left guard. James Hurst and Ryan Ramczyk were the normal starters at tackle. Calvin Throckmorton alternated in with Kidd at the left guard spot.

**Chris Harris Jr. had a pass broken up and a sack in the first quarter.

**The Saints got a pre-snap penalty for a false start on Juwan Johnson prior to running a play from scrimmage. Of course, that led to a 3-and-out.

**Pittsburgh got the ball at its own 43 yard line and drove 57 yards in 12 plays, mixing the run and pass and George Pickens scored on a 1-yard run to make it 7-0 with 5:06 to play in the quarter.

**A big play on the drive was a costly pass interference penalty against Alontae Taylor, whom the Steelers targeted throughout the early going.

**Rashid Shaheed then had a good kickoff return to the 37-yard line but Tre’Quan Smith was flagged for holding, backing New Orleans back to its 10-yard line.

**Najee Harris had a 36-yard run later in the quarter, by far the longest run by the anemic Pittsburgh offense all season. The previous long was just 19 yards. Harris was injured on the play.

**How bad was the first quarter? The Steelers had 111 yards to 32 for the Saints. That included 60 yards rushing to just two yards rushing for New Orleans. Pittsburgh had the ball for 10 minutes to just five minutes for the Saints. Pittsburgh had no penalties while the Saints had four penalties for 40 yards.

**Pittsburgh made it 10-0 with 14:17 to play in the first half, driving 65 yards in eight plays with Matthew Wright making a 33-yard field goal.

**The Saints looked to have gotten a 3-and-out but Kentavius Street was flagged for a totally inexcusable roughing the passer penalty to extend the drive which led to another score for the Steelers.

**The Saints finally got on the scoreboard on a 44-yard field goal by Wil Lutz to make it 10-3 with 6:40 to play in the first half. The drive covered 40 yards in nine plays, taking 4:04 off the clock. Alvin Kamara had a 14-yard run to get the drive started and Andy Dalton completed passes of 11 yards to Jarvis Landry and 12 yards to Shaheed.

**The mistakes continued as Paulson Adebo committed a pass interference penalty on the next possession before the Saints had to waste a timeout due to having 12 men on the field on a third-and-one situation for Pittsburgh.

**Kaden Elliss got a big sack to stop a Pittsburgh drive late in the first half. It was the second sack in as many weeks for Elliss.

**The New Orleans offense executed the 2-minute drill to perfection prior to halftime as Dalton guided the Saints on a 71-yard drive in six plays, culminating with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Juwan Johnson to tie the game 10-10 with 19 seconds to play in the half.

**Dalton overcame a sack on the drive to get it done. Dalton completed 5 of 5 passes for 64 yards and the score on the drive.

**Already depleted, the offensive line lost starting left tackle James Hurst with a concussion. Landon Young had to take over.

**David Onyemata recorded a sack in the third quarter. It is the third straight game with a sack for Onyemata, the longest streak of his career.

**That sack led to a stop and Wright hooked a 39-yard field goal wide left.

**Blake Gillikin then unleashed a perfect punt, covering 58 yards and going out of bounds at the Pittsburgh 2-yard-line.

**Kenny Pickett threw a perfect deep ball to Diontae Johnson for 36 yards to the New Orleans 20-yard line. Johnson beat Adebo on the play.

**Pittsburgh drove 83 yards in 11 plays to the New Orleans 13-yard line but the drive stalled and Wright kicked a 33-yard field goal to give the Steelers a 13-10 lead with 13:43 to play in the game.

**Dalton was then intercepted by Damontae Kazee on a ball that hit off the hand and face mask of Jarvis Landry, giving Pittsburgh the ball at the New Orleans 44-yard line.

**The Steelers took advantage, going 44 yards in eight plays with Pickett sneaking it in from a yard out to make it 20-10 with 8:38 to play in the game.

**Once again, it was a key penalty on the Saints that set up the touchdown as Adebo was flagged for pass interference in the end zone, setting up the score.

**The Saints went for it on fourth-and-one at their own 34-yard line midway through the fourth quarter and Dalton was stuffed for no gain.

**It did not matter as Wright missed a 48-yard field goal badly.

**That did not matter, either, as Levi Wallace intercepted Dalton on the next possession. Dalton saw man coverage, threw one up deep for Kevin White and Wallace simply wanted the ball more and took it away from White.

The Saints totaled just 186 total yards of offense and 71 of those came on one drive prior to halftime.

New Orleans gave Pittsburgh six first downs by penalty, part of their season-high 10 which cost them 74 yards.

The Saints were gashed for 216 yards rushing by the Steelers, a team that entered the game averaging 95 yards rushing per game.

Pittsburgh, which had the ball for 38:56 to just 21:04 for the Saints, had six plays of 20 yards or more. The Saints had none.

Dalton is not the problem for the Saints. It is a total team effort for this bunch to be 3-7, including the coaching staff.

That said, it is clearly time to give Jameis Winston a chance next week. Dalton is not your quarterback of the future. He is a backup at this stage of his career.

The New Orleans Saints are 3-7.

Did anyone imagine that being the case, prior to the season?

They are cold as ice.

So is the season, regardless of what the porous NFC South standings say.

The Saints are tied with Carolina, who fired its coach and traded its best player. The Saints lost at Carolina already.

The Saints return home to host the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams next Sunday.

Fortunately, the Rams and their poor, apathetic fan support will not buy up tickets in droves from Saints fans who are disappointed, disillusioned, disgusted, disinterested and looking to sell.

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Ken Trahan

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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