Welcome to the most comprehensive Pittsburgh Steelers Game Day Preview on the internet! This is your one stop shop for everything you need to know about the Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a Game Preview, the Steeler’s Keys to Victory, Score Prediction, a detailed breakdown of each team, Fantasy Football Impact, Game Information, Individual Stats, Team Stats, and the latest Injury Report. Heck, you even get the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!
SAINTS CAMERON JORDAN PROVIDES BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL FOR STEELERS
In terms of naming future Hall of Fame players, Ben Roethlisberger is a pretty good bet to be a first ballot selection. For his career, Big Ben is currently 6th in all-time passing yards with 55,527 yards, 7th with 359 touchdown passes, and has collected two Super Bowl rings to boot.
For some odd reason, New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Cameron Jordan isn’t all that impressed.
“Is that true?” Jordan said, looking at the questioner who asked if Roethlisberger was a Hall of Famer. “Really? In this era?”
Jordan placed Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers ahead of Roethlisberger. Then mentioned Peyton Manning, who retired after the 2015 season.
“You’re saying he’s better than Philip Rivers now? Career wise?”
Jordan continued on, including the last of the talented trio drafted back in 2004…
“I’d honestly put Eli (Manning) before I put Ben,” he said.
Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey got a good laugh on the remarks by Jordan.
“It’s totally fine,” Pouncey said about Big Ben’s HOF credentials. “There are a million people that think he is.”
Pouncey continued with a little smile.
“I don’t think Ben’s a Hall of Famer, either,” Pouncey said. “I know.”
Regardless of what Cam Jordan thinks, this will be a game that features two of the game’s greatest QB’s in Drew Brees and Roethlisberger.
You can almost bet that whomever has the better game will give his team the advantage in coming away with the victory this Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, a possible Super Bowl preview, when the Saints (12-2) hook up with the Steelers (8-5-1) at 4:25 p.m..
The Steelers will be without their top running back in James Conner for the third straight game. Jaylen Samuels will look to pick up where he left off, as he torched the New England Patriots for 142 yards rushing, adding two receptions for 30 yards in his 2nd NFL start.
Juju Smith-Schuster, who has 95 receptions for 1,274 yards receiving and six touchdowns, is questionable with a groin injury sustained in Thursday’s practice.
His teammates are confident he will be available.
JuJu is going to play. JuJu’s gonna play,” fellow WR Ryan Switzer said, confidently, of Sunday’s game at New Orleans. “I know JuJu, I know JuJu.”
As did one of the game’s best receivers…
“I think he’ll be there for us,” Antonio Brown said.
James Washington, who would step in for Smith-Schuster if injured, believes in good Juju, as well.
“He’s a tough guy,” Washington said of Smith-Schuster. “I don’t doubt that he (will) be there.”
The Steelers broke out a rarely used five-wide look vs New England last week, and Roethlisberger, like his counterpart in Brees, likes to spread the ball around.
“Even last week, when JuJu was with us, Ben was putting us at different positions, looking for matchups,” Washington said. “So even if someone is not there, you still have got to know everything because you just never know what ‘7’ wants.”
Smith-Schuster is as explosive whether he lines up outside, or in the slot, but, 55 of his 95 receptions have come as he lined up in the slot.
“If (Roethlisberger) sees something during the game – and he sees everything –and he wants us to switch spots, we have to be ready,” Switzer said. “We have to know plays by concepts, not just what (position) we have.”
Roethlisberger is certainly looking forward to seeing five wide more often.
“It gives us a lot of weapons,” said Big Ben. “Obviously, we are limited in some of the things we can do but it creates some mismatch opportunities. Then it’s about finding the right mismatch or the right opportunity that is available for us.”
While Roethlisberger is busy utilizing whichever receivers or backs he has healthy, Joe Haden and the defense will be focusing on stopping the Saints talented wideout Michael Thomas, who has amassed 109 catches for 1,267 receiving yards and eight scores, and Alvin Kamara, who has rushed for 860 yards and 12 touchdowns… oh, and Kamara also has 77 receptions for 627 yards and another four TD’s.
“It’s not that simple,” Haden said about taking away the two players. “They definitely go to them a lot. Those are two premier players in their passing game. Kamara, he’s like a receiver. Mike Thomas, he’s a volume catcher. We got to make sure where those two are all the time.”
Week nine was the last time Thomas recorded a 100-yard receiving game. Teams have gone all in on stopping him, as behind him on the depth chart are players like Tre’Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood, and Austin Carr, who have just 44 receptions combined between them.
Regardless, Haden knows he’ll have his hands full in covering Thomas.
“He’s a physical receiver who runs good routes and, at the same time, he’s working with a great quarterback who gets the ball to you,” Haden said. “A lot of times when you’re that good and got someone who can throw you open at the same time, it’s kind of tough. He’s able to get him the ball coming out of his routes.”
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler is beyond confident with Haden doing his job.
“He’s the best corner I’ve been around in my 20 years in the NFL,” Butler said.
- Saints Ted Ginn has been taken off IR, but will be a Game-Time decision to suit up Sunday.
Keys To Victory
- Balanced attack! Saints are good at stopping run, but persistence pays off.
- Big game from Antonio Brown.
- Touchdowns in Red Zone.
- Double up Michael Thomas. Make Brees force throws to him.
- Keep Alvin Kamara bottled up. No splash plays allowed.
What will this game mean come Sunday at 4:25 p.m.?
The Steelers will be keeping an eye on the result of the Baltimore Ravens-LA Chargers game on Saturday night, as if the Ravens lose, Pittsburgh will clinch the AFC North title with either a win vs the Saints or Bengals in the regular season finale.
BUT…if the Ravens win, and both the Tennessee Titans (vs Redskins) and Indianapolis Colts (vs Giants) win their games, the Steelers will be feeling quite a bit of heat when they take the field in New Orleans. Under that scenario, if the Steelers fail to beat the Saints, then Pittsburgh would have to beat the Bengals the following week and pray that somehow the Cleveland Browns take down the Ravens in week 17.
How about the Steelers just do it on their own, and take care of business this weekend in The Big Easy?
Yes, the Saints are 12-2, and they are excellent at home, but like every team in the NFL, they have their strengths and their weaknesses that can be exploited.
The Saints have superb weapons for Brees in Thomas and Kamara… after that, well, let’s just say no other names bring fear when mentioned.
Pittsburgh’s biggest problems have been untimely and backbreaking turnovers, and a defense that has blown 4th quarter leads in four of their five losses.
Last week the defense put forth a superb effort vs Tom Brady and the Patriots, holding New England to just 10 points, turning Brady away on his final two drives of the game.
Look for the Steelers to imitate what teams have been doing to the Saints the past three weeks, that forcing the likes of Mark Ingram, Tre’Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood, and Austin Carr to beat them, while locking down both Thomas and Kamara as best they can.
It also didn’t help the Saints cause with Cam Jordan running his mouth. As if Roethlisberger and the Steelers needed any more motivation to begin with, as, yeah, they are playing for their playoff lives here possibly…
The defense plays well again and Roethlisberger has a big game to put his team in position to win the AFC North title once again.
Steelers 27 Saints 20
NFL Week 16
Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA. | Field: FieldTurf
Kickoff: Sunday, December 23rd, at 4:25 pm
TV: CBS (locally KDKA-TV, channel 2) | Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play) Tony Romo (analyst) | Tracy Wolfson (sideline)
Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM/970 WBGG-AM | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley (analysts) | Missi Matthews (sideline)
National Radio: ESPN RADIO | Announcers: Adam Amin (play-by-play) Dusty Dvoracek (analyst) | Dianna Russini (sideline)
National Radio: Sports USA | Announcers: Josh Appel (play-by-play) | John Robinson (analyst)
Weather at Kickoff: Dome
Vegas Line: New Orleans -7
Fantasy Football Focus
- Start: QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (if active), RB Jaylen Samuels
- Sleeper: TE Vance McDonald, WR James Washington (if Smith-Schuster sits)
- Sit: Steelers Defense, RB James Conner
New Orleans Saints
- Start: QB Drew Brees, WR Michael Thomas, RB Alvin Kamara
- Sleeper: None
- Sit: Saints Defense, RB Mark Ingram
- Series History: Began in 1967
- The Steelers are 7-8 overall against the Saints
- At Home: 3-3
- On Road: 4-5
- Streak: Saints won previous two meetings.
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Nov. 30, 2014, in Pittsburgh (New Orleans 35, Pittsburgh 32)
- Post-Season: 0-0
- Last Post-Season Meeting:
- S New Orleans DB Erik Harris attended California (Pa.).
- Ben Roethlisberger needs 38 passing yards to reach the 4,500-passing yard milestone in 2018 and for the second season in his NFL career.
- Roethlisberger is three touchdown passes from surpassing his team record for the most scoring tosses in a single-season established in 2007 and 2014 (32).
- James Conner is 91 rushing yards from 1,000 in 2018.
- Antonio Brown needs three touchdown catches to reach 75 in his NFL career and with the Steelers.
- Brown, with 100 catches in 2018, will become the first player in NFL history to record 100 or more receptions in six consecutive years.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster is two touchdown receptions shy of 15 in his NFL career.
- T.J. Watt needs two sacks to reach 20.0 in his NFL career.
- Cam Heyward is 1.0 sacks from becoming tying Aaron Smith (44.0) for the second-most by a Steelers defensive lineman since sacks became an official statistic in 1982 (Keith Willis: 59.0).
A look at the Pittsburgh Steelers!
- Overall Record: 8-5-1
- Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (12th Season with Steelers)
- Overall Regular Season Record: 124-65-1 (.655)
- Playoff Record: 8-7 (Qualified for playoffs 8 times)
- 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers Roster
- Steelers Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats
- Last Game: Pittsburgh 17 Patriots 10
Scouting the Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger’s big arm, along with his uncanny ability to slip out of the pocket and extend plays makes him one one of the league’s best.
Le’Veon Bell who? James Conner has shown he more than capable of shouldering a starters share of carries. He has slimmed down and has added speed and quickness to an already powerful running style. Conner has become a dual threat and is one of the best RB’s in the NFL. Jaylen Samuels is an H-Back type of player that can line up all over the field. He is especially dangerous catching passes out of the backfield. Steven Ridley is a capable runner that can be counted upon on an as needed basis.
What more can you say about Antonio Brown? He is the league’s best wide receiver. His dedication and drive to be the best is unmatched by any player in the league. JuJu Smith-Schuster heads into his 2nd season and has picked up where he left off. Speaking of rookies, James Washington was a Camp favorite of Roethlisberger, and is starting to show flashes of becoming a dangerous weapon as the 3rd receiver. Eli Rogers is back and is excellent out of the slot. Darrius Heyward-Bey is mainly used on special teams. Ryan Switzer has been good in the return game, but has also established himself as a reliable target for Roethlisberger out of the slot.
Jesse James is reliable as ever. Vance McDonald is making a big impact in his 2nd year as a Steeler, often delivering punishing hits while being tackled . Xavier Grimble provides a big target for Roethlisberger in the Red Zone.
Up front, the Steelers deploy Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt as their defensive ends. In the middle, Javon Hargrave and Daniel McCullers will rotate. Tyson Alualu and Kameron Canaday will see time at defensive end as well. L.T. Walton can play all three spots.
The linebacker unit goes Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt on the outside, with Vince Williams and Jon Bostic in the middle. Anthony Chickillo and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi back-up Dupree and Watt, while L.J. Fort and Tyler Matakevich are reserves in the middle.
In the secondary, Coty Sensabaugh and Joe Haden are the starters at cornerback. Backing them up will be Artie Burns, Mike Hilton, and Cameron Sutton. Rookie Terrell Edmunds starts at strong safety, with Morgan Burnett and Jordan Dangerfield backing him up and seeing plenty of action in nickle and dime formations. Sean Davis is the starter yet again at free safety, with Brian Allen and Marcus Allen as reserves.
- Ben Roethlisberger (4,462 yards passing | 30 TD passes | 15 interceptions | 20 sacks | 91 yards rushing | 3 TD’s)
- *James Conner (909 yards rushing | 12 rushing TD’s | 52 receptions | 467 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Jaylen Samuels (201 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 16 receptions | 148 yards receiving | 2 receiving TD’s)
- Stevan Ridley (76 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 18 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Roosevelt Nix (0 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 36 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Juju Smith-Schuster (95 receptions | 1,274 receiving yards | 6 receiving TD’s)
- Antonio Brown (90 receptions | 1,112 receiving yards | 13 receiving TD’s)
- Ryan Switzer (32 receptions | 233 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- James Washington (13 receptions | 153 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Eli Rogers (4 receptions | 20 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Darrius Heyward-Bey (1 receptions | 9 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Vance McDonald (46 receptions | 522 receiving yards | 4 receiving TD’s)
- Jesse James (230 receptions | 423 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
- Xavier Grimble (5 receptions | 70 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
- Chris Boswell (Extra Point: 41-46 | FG: 11-18 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 3-3 | 30-39: 3-5 | 40-49: 4-9 | 50+: 1-1 | Long: 50)
A look at the New Orleans Saints!
- Overall Record: 12-2
- Head Coach: Sean Payton (12th Season with Saints)
- Overall Regular Season Record: 117-73 (.616) | 117-73 (.616) with Saints
- Playoff Record: 7-5 (Qualified for playoffs 6 times)
- 2018 New Orleans Saints Roster
- New Orleans Team Statistics, including Defensive Stats
- Last Week: New Orleans 12 Carolina 9
Scouting the Patriots
Drew Brees is Drew Brees… he’s still one of the best in the game. Very accurate and super quick release. He’s thrown for 3,666 yards with 31 TD’s and just five picks.
Alvin Kamara can do it all. He has rushed for 860 yards and 12 touchdowns, with 77 receptions for 627 yards and another four TD’s. Mark Ingram is the change of pace back.
Michael Thomas is the lone weapon in the Saints receiving arsenal… he has 109 catches for 1,267 yards and eight TD’s. After that…well, Tre’Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood, and Austin Carr have just 44 receptions combined between them.
Benjamin Watson keeps defying age… he’s reliable as ever with 32 receptions and 365 yards through the air.
The Saints are stout against the run, allowing just 79.1 yards per game. They allow 20.9 points per game and can get after the quarterback with 45 sacks. They have 12 interceptions and 10 fumbles recovered.
- Drew Brees (3,666 yards passing | 31 TD passes | 5 interceptions | 15 sacks | 23 yards rushing | 4 TD’s)
- Taysom Hill (64 yards passing | 0 TD passes | 0 interceptions | 1 sacks | 185 yards rushing | 1 TD’s)
- Alvin Kamara (860 yards rushing | 12 rushing TD’s | 77 receptions | 627 yards receiving | 4 receiving TD’s)
- Mark Ingram (582 yards rushing | 5 rushing TD’s | 18 receptions | 147 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Michael Thomas (109 receptions | 1,267 receiving yards | 8 receiving TD’s)
- Tre’Quan Smith (24 receptions | 386 receiving yards | 4 receiving TD’s)
- Keith Kirkwood (11 receptions | 174 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
- Austin Carr (9 receptions | 97 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
- Benjamin Watson (32 receptions | 365 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
- Josh Hill (14 receptions | 184 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
- Will Lutz (Extra Point: 46-47 | FG: 27-28 | 0-19: 1-1 | 20-29: 5-5 | 30-39: 9-9 | 40-49: 10-11 | 50+: 2-2 | Long: 54)
Offensive & Defensive Stats
- Total Yards: Steelers average 415.9 YPG | Saints average 393.9 YPG
- Rushing: Steelers average 93.9 YPG | Saints average 127.4 YPG
- Passing: Steelers average 321.9 YPG | Saints average 266.4 YPG
- Scoring: Steelers average 27.4 PPG | Saints average 32.8 PPG
- Total Yards: Steelers allow 333.5 YPG | Saints allow 341.6 YPG
- Rushing: Steelers allow 96.9 YPG | Saints allow 79.1 YPG
- Passing: Steelers allow 236.6 YPG | Saints allow 262.5 YPG
- Scoring: Steelers allow 22.6 PPG | Saints allow 20.9 PPG
- Pittsburgh (Sacks: 46 | Interceptions: 7 | Fumbles: 7)
- New Orleans (Sacks: 45 | Interceptions: 12 | Fumbles: 10)
Injury Report (12/21/2018)
- Out: RB James Conner (Ankle)
- Doubtful: N/A
- Questionable: WR Juju Smith-Schuster (Groin)
New Orleans Saints
- Out: T Jermon Bushrod (Hamstring)
- Doubtful: N/A
- Questionable: N/A
Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 Schedule
Thursday, Aug. 9 @ Philadelphia W, 31-14
Thursday, Aug. 16 @ Green Bay L, 51-34
Saturday, Aug. 25 TENNESSEE W, 16-6
Thursday, Aug. 30 CAROLINA W, 39-24
REGULAR SEASON (8-5-1)
Sunday, Sept. 9 @ Cleveland 1 p.m. | TIE- 21-21
Sunday, Sept. 16 KANSAS CITY 1 p.m. | L- 42-37
Monday, Sept. 24 @ Tampa Bay 8:15 p.m. | W- 30-27
Sunday, Sept. 30 BALTIMORE 8:20 p.m. | L- 26-14
Sunday, Oct. 7 ATLANTA* 1 p.m. | W- 41-17
Sunday, Oct. 14 @ Cincinnati* | W- 28-21
Sunday, Oct. 21 BYE WEEK
Sunday, Oct. 28 CLEVELAND* | W- 33-18
Sunday, Nov. 4 @ Baltimore* | W- 23-16
Thursday, Nov. 8 CAROLINA | W- 52-21
Sunday, Nov. 18 @ Jacksonville | W- 20-16
Sunday, Nov. 25 @ Denver* | L – 24-17
Sunday, Dec. 2 LOS ANGELES CHARGERS* | L- 33-30
Sunday, Dec. 9 @ Oakland* 4:25 p.m. | L- 24-21
Sunday, Dec. 16 NEW ENGLAND* | W- 17-10
Monday, Dec. 23 @ New Orleans* 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Dec. 30 CINCINNATI* 1 p.m. (CBS)
* – Times may change due to flexible scheduling
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 5-6 Wild Card Weekend
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 12-13 Divisional Playoff Games
Sunday, Jan. 20 Conference Championships
Sunday, Jan. 27 Pro Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)
Sunday, Feb. 3 Super Bowl LIII (Atlanta, Ga.)
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.
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As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides top notch opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania, including WPIAL Football.
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