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Old 11-01-2010, 07:35 AM   #1
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Default Steelers Report Card: Game Seven vs. New Orleans Saints

Steelers Report Card: Game Seven vs. New Orleans Saints
GERRY DULAC grades the Steelers' effort Sunday in their loss to New Orleans:
Monday, November 01, 2010
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Ben Roethlisberger had only 93 yards passing through three quarters before completing three consecutive passes on a four-play scoring drive. He was under lots of pressure and had little time to throw in the first half, completing just 8 of 16 passes for 71 yards before halftime. After an interception gave him the ball at the Saints 36, he completed just 1 of 6 passes before Jeff Reed missed a 51-yard field goal.


Rashard Mendenhall struggled for 3 1/2 quarters until he broke a 38-yard scoring run on the same play (22 Double) as his overtime touchdown in the season opener. He had just 28 yards on 11 carries in the first half. The Steelers had some success with first-down runs by Mewelde Moore (18 yards) and Isaac Redman (15), but little else, in the first half. Mendenhall finished with 71 yards on 15 carries.


The Saints were determined to take away the deep pass to WR Mike Wallace, and they did, holding him to two catches for 34 yards in the first half. Antwaan Randle El had a 12-yard TD overturned by replay when it was ruled he did not break the plane. Hines Ward and TE David Johnson had the big blocks on Mendenhall's TD run, but Heath Miller's fumble after a 25-yard gain ended any chance at victory.


The Saints applied lots of pressure on Roethlisberger and were keying on stopping Mendenhall, keeping the offense from developing any sense of rhythm. The goal-line offense bogged down again because there was no push up front on three plays from the Saints 1 after Randle El's touchdown was overturned by replay. G Trai Essex missed a block on first down that started the goal-line failure.


Even though the Steelers were playing without DEs Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, the Saints rushed only six times for 15 yards in the first half. Chris Hoke made the big play at the goal line, dropping RB Chris Ivory for a 3-yard loss on second down that eventually forced the Saints to settle for a field goal. The Saints had only 26 yards on 13 carries through three quarters and finished with 32 yards on 18 carries.


Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau tried to confuse Drew Brees by lining his linebackers in different spots and dropping them into coverage. James Harrison had the lone sack in the first half and James Farrior had a pair of big third-down stops. Harrison and Lawrence Timmons, who was everywhere with 11 solo tackles, combined on a third-down stop at the 4 that forced a field goal.


Bryant McFadden got beat for the only touchdown, but his sack and forced fumble at the Steelers 27 gave the offense a chance. CB Ike Taylor, a New Orleans native, celebrated his return home with an interception in the final minutes of the first half, but he blew the coverage on a 50-yard pass to Robert Meachem to the Steelers' 26. William Gay got beat on a 27-yard pass that set up the Saints' first field goal.


Jeff Reed kicked a 19-yard field goal, but missed a 51-yarder near the end of the first half -- his first miss on the road after nine conversions in a row this season. Emmanuel Sanders had another big return to give the offensive a lift, returning a punt 38 yards to set up the Steelers' first field goal. But he also fumbled after a 41-yard kick return in the third quarter, his second in as many games.


The offense never got into any kind of rhythm, whether because of the crowd noise or the Saints pressure. And they didn't attack deep to Wallace, not even once. The defense didn't let the Saints get deep, except for one blown coverage, and the different looks from the linebackers resulted in big plays. But the Saints were 6 of 8 on third down in the second half, a big reason for the defeat.
Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10305...#ixzz141NLNIOX
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