Expect points early and often, as the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) take their 5th-ranked offense to Mercedes-Benz Superdome to do battle with the New Orleans Saints (12-2) 2nd-ranked offense in Week 16 (December 23, 2018 at 4:25pm EST). The Saints opened as 6.0-point favorites.
The Steelers are averaging an impressive 27.4 PPG (5th) and they would be even better if not for a -9 turnover differential, which ranks 5th-last in the NFL. Pittsburgh has committed 23 turnovers this season (26th), which includes two last week against the Patriots, a sloppy game they eked out 17-10.
Misguided Ben Roethlisberger passes have produced an intolerable 15 of those giveaways. The rest have come from the team fumbling the ball away. Ball security will be crucial for Roethlisberger and the Steelers over the remainder of the year.
Ben Roethlisberger is now tied with Sam Darnold for the NFL lead in interceptions.#NEvsPIT
— SportsLine (@SportsLine) December 16, 2018
Pittsburgh’s defense is built to stop the run. They only spot their opponent 96.9 yards per game on the ground (6th), compared to 236.6 through the air (13th). The Steelers’ stinginess against the run has led to them allowing just 22.6 points per game (15th).
Steelers vs Saints Statistical Comparison
|27.4 (5th)||PPG||32.8 (2nd)|
|405.8 (4th)||YPG||385.9 (7th)|
|93.9 (30th)||Rushing YPG||127.4 (8th)|
|311.9 (3rd)||Passing YPG||258.5 (11th)|
|22.6 (15th)||PPG Allowed||20.9 (T7th)|
|333.5 (9th)||YPG Allowed||341.6 (11th)|
|96.9 (6th)||Rushing YPG Allowed||79.1 (1st)|
|236.6 (13th)||Passing YPG Allowed||262.5 (28th)|
|-9 (28th)||Turnover Differential||+8 (T8th)|
New Orleans Saints
Pittsburgh’s defense will certainly be tested this week against a New Orleans offense that is still ranked second in scoring, despite averaging just 16.7 PPG over their last three.
For the season, the Saints are scoring 32.8 points per game thanks to their ability to beat you both on the ground and through the air. They rank 11th in passing (258.5 yards per game) and eighth in rushing (127.4 yards per game).
Drew Brees has been exceptional for New Orleans this season, throwing for 3,666 yards with a 31:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He’s receiving great production from Michael Thomas (1,267 receiving yards), but has also been able to depend on Alvin Kamara to take some pressure off him when necessary. Kamara has rushed for 860 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, making the Saints’ offense a work of art.
— ⚜️ (@whoadiebrees) December 18, 2018
On the other side of the ball, New Orleans’s defense has been very difficult to score on, especially during the second half of the year. They’re giving up just 20.9 points per game, ranking seventh in the NFL.
Teams have had enough trouble protecting the football, let alone putting it in the endzone against this defense. The Saints have generated 22 turnovers this season (7th), and they’ve even contributed some points of their own, scoring one defensive touchdown. Ball security will be vital for Pittsburgh against this ball-hawking defense in Week 16.
The Steelers and Saints haven’t met since Nov. 2014 when the Saints won 35-32 in Pittsburgh. It was their second straight win in the series, dating back to 2010.