Friday, October 29, 2010

Steelers-Saints Halloween Showdown

*With the Steelers holding a roster spot open for the injured Aaron Smith expect them to cut a player Saturday morning in order to active DL Steve McLendon from the practice squad. With so many rookies playing well on special teams I'm guessing Anthony Madison will be the guy. It will be interesting to see if they re-sign Madison on Monday and move McLendon back to the practice squad and continue that practice in the weeks ahead. Either way Smith's injury could end up costing Madison a lot of jack.

*Trai Essex was back at practice Thursday and will return as the starting right guard in place of Doug Legursky.

*Lamar Woodley and Flozell Adams looked relatively full speed on Thursday and I expect them to go Sunday.

*I don't know if Brett Keisel had a setback or if the Steelers were too optimistic early in the week, but he didn't practice Thursday or Friday and will not dress for the second straight week.

*Saints starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter both returned to practice in a limited fashion on Thursday. This will be one of the keys to the game. Porter hasn't played since week four because of a sprained MCL. The Saints secondary has held up without these two, but they've really only faced one solid passing offense this season. Look for Arians to test the Saints secondary early and often.

*Neither Saints RB Reggie Bush nor RB Pierre Thomas is expected to play Sunday night. Bush is still recovering from a broken leg and Thomas is in a walking boot while he recovers from a sprained left ankle.

*The Browns hit on three gadet plays last week against the Saints. Those three plays accounted for 143 of 210 total yards for the Browns. Drew Brees threw four interceptions, two for touchdowns.

*The Saints have eight receivers with ten or more receptions. They like to run a lot of seam routes and crossing routes and are one of the best teams in the league in YAC. The Steelers have brought less pressure the last few weeks. I expect that to change this week with Dick Lebeau showing Brees a lot of different looks and bringing pressure from a variety of areas.

*2009 first round draft pick Ziggy Hood is likely to get his first career start this week in place of Smith at left DE.

*Saints safety Darren Sharper was a teammate of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin at William and Mary.

MY TAKE: The Steelers will be the more physical team on both sides of the ball, but this game will hinge on the pressure the Steeler defense is able to bring on Saints quarterback Drew Brees. I expect the Steelers offense to move the ball effectively and if they are able to continue to score touchdowns they will have a good chance to win. Look for this game to play out much like last week's game against Miami. The Saints will get their yards through the air, but if the defense can hurry Brees, jam the crossing routes and continue to play stout against the run this is a winnable game. I see the Steelers holding the Saints to 20 and that should be enough. Pittsburgh 24 New Orleans 20.

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