The Fleur-De-Lis Report: Saints aim to rebound against lowly Steelers after another humiliating meltdown
After coming off an embarrassing week 9 performance, the New Orleans Saints (3-6) are on the road today to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6). The Saints have found themselves in an awkward situation. A win keeps them in the fight for the NFC South crown, while a loss brings them down solely to last place. But following last week’s humiliating loss, some are once again calling for a change at quarterback.
OBSERVATIONS FROM THE WEEK
Ahead of today’s game, the Saints ruled out multiple players due to injury. Cornerback (CB) Marshon Lattimore (bruised kidney), Runningback Mark Ingram (knee), Center (C) Erik McCoy (shoulder), Offensive Lineman (OL) Andrus Peat (triceps), Safety (S) Marcus Maye (abdomen), and Linebacker (LB) Pete Werner (ankle) were all non-participants this week. Marshon Lattimore will miss his fifth game with his kidney injury and now the team loses its leading tackler in Werner.
Werner was hurt during the Ravens game and sources say he is expected to miss significant time. It is not known yet how many games Werner will miss but needless to say this is a significant blow to the team, still trying to find its way to a division title. Werner has been one of the best players for the Saints this season. He, along with Demario Davis are considered one of the league’s top linebacker tandems, with Werner tallying 74 total tackles, 53 solo tackles, and 21 assisted tackles. Werner also has 2 forced fumbles to add to his season totals. He's been everywhere for the Saints and it will be tough for Dennis Allen to replace his production within the rotation. Hopefully the young star linebacker doesn’t miss too much time.
Free agent RB Derrick Gore was signed earlier this week, perhaps to help generate some production in the backfield after veteran Mark Ingram went down with a reported MCL strain. Ingram is expected to be out for at least another week or two.
The offensive line took the biggest hit this week with both McCoy and Peat going down and out. Cesar Ruiz will be expected to start at center. Ruiz played a solid game against Baltimore while filling in at center, and overall he’s had a great season. Coming into this year, many questioned his ability to play at this level as he dealt with consistency issues early in his career. Not only has Ruiz turned himself into a valued piece to this offensive line, he’s now showing his versatility. Andrus Peat’s injury comes as a bit of a surprise when you consider he played over 50 snaps against the Ravens. He too will be out today. Calvin Throckmorton, or undrafted rookie Lewis Kidd will be expected to start in his place. On the bright side for this unit, rookie OL Trevor Penning returned to practice this week from injury reserve. Penning suffered a turf toe injury in the preseason, keeping him out all season so far. He will still need to take some time before he’s ready to return to game action, but it's an encouraging sign to see him back with the team and participating in some capacity.
Questionable to play will be Marcus Davenport (calf), as he was limited all week in practice. Despite Davenport’s history, he’s actually been fairly healthy this season. This week was the first time he missed any practice reps since late September. He’s also been pretty productive alongside Cam Jordan, pressuring the quarterback more than anyone else on the team. Marcus Maye is also questionable and probably a late scratch to play considering he was DNP all week.
The good news is- Wide Receiver (WR) Jarvis Landry is expected to make his return today. Last week he practiced for the first time in weeks but still didn’t play in the Monday night game. The last game Landry played in was week 4 against the Vikings. Having him back will be a huge boost to Chris Olave and the rest of the receiving corps.
PREVIEWING THE STEELERS
Just when you want to trust the Saints coming off a big week 8 win, they stink it up on Monday Night Football. It was yet another abysmal performance from a team that has looked flat more times than not this season. With the loss to Baltimore, the Saints now enter this game with more questions than answers. If they win today, they remain in the thick of the NFC South race. However, a loss brings them all the way down into the division basement after Carolina defeated Atlanta on Thursday.
The Steelers are in the midst of having their worst season under head coach Mike Tomlin. Tomlin has never had a losing season since being hired in 2007. Rookie QB Kenny Pickett has struggled to adjust to the speed of the NFL game and Pittsburgh’s defense has faced a string of injuries all season long. They will receive a boost today with the long awaited return of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, TJ Watt.
Overall, this game should serve as a good bounce back for the Saints, who at this point, are just in search of some mid-season confidence. This game is one of their easiest on the schedule, especially when you consider who they have coming up in the next few weeks.
The key to winning today for New Orleans will be to force Kenny Pickett into mistakes. The young QB is currently tied for 2nd in the NFL with 8 interceptions this season. We’ve seen him unravel in big moments, so it will be on the Saints defense to generate pressure and perhaps force Pickett to get rid of the ball before he’s ready. Takeaways have been an area the Saints have struggled with this year, but maybe this is the game we’ll finally see some tenacity, given Pittsburgh’s offensive ineptitudes.
For the Saints offense, last week was a massive let down. Going into the game, many thought the defense would have their hands full containing Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense, but overall I thought they played well enough to give themselves a chance. Instead, it was the offense who produced over 30 points per game in the last several weeks, who appeared overmatched. The two main stars, Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill, combined for 13 total touches against Baltimore. That is simply unacceptable. I’d hope Pete Carmichael took note of where his group went wrong, and make it a point to get those two guys more involved today.
This season has been rough and I anticipate it will get rougher as the year progresses. The Saints have a tough schedule coming up including the Rams, 49ers, Buccaneers in Tampa, and the Eagles. With how inconsistent this team has been all year, it’s very hard for me to see very many wins in the upcoming weeks.
The game against Baltimore showed how an Andy Dalton led-team will only take you so far. There’s a reason he was ousted from three different teams in the last three years. This leaves many to wonder if going back to Jameis Winston is the best course of action Dennis Allen should consider. Winston told the media that he’s itching to play again. He isn’t quite 100% healthy but he’s been dressed out and participating fully in practices. Winston says he was told that he wouldn’t lose his job permanently, but that is sort of what happened once the coaching staff opted to go with Dalton as the full-time starter. Despite this, Winston believes he should have given his injuries more consideration back in week two against Tampa, instead of figuratively “dying for the cause.”
Personally, I think it might be a little too late to go back to Winston. I definitely think he deserves another shot; especially because we all know Andy Dalton is not a long term solution. But the Saints have moved on with Dalton, and with a team already dealing with consistency issues, switching things up now would only add more fuel to the fire. Jameis Winston still has potential, but he won’t be able to show it until he is fully healthy and the coaching staff is fully committed to him- both of which remains to be seen.
The Saints are the favorites today against a bad Steelers team. The weather will be cold, and conditions won’t be comfortable. But every game from here on out are must-win games, including this one. If they want to even have a shot at the division, they’ll need to come out playing hard. I have them winning 27-10.
For post-game analysis click here.
Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter @Chris_Lunkin98 for weekly content and up to the minute updates on your New Orleans Saints.
Desktop NewsClick to open Continuous News in a sidebar that updates in real-time.
DOTD: Some road projects may be pushed back due to rising cost...
Black and Gold Report: New Orleans Saints vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Food trucks return to city of Baker after mayor vetos ban; city...
Decision to arrest mom over recording devices at school was 'heavy-handed,' legal...
BRPD says tipster calls are up, but since last year nearly 150...
Black and Gold Report: New Orleans Saints vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Southeastern hosting Idaho in first round of FCS Playoffs Saturday
Fans' Choice Award Winner: U-High's Keylan Moses
Southeastern running back Derrick Graham has a deep passion for rodeo
Southeastern to face Idaho in first round of FCS Playoffs