Pittsburgh ranks fifth in the NFL, earning 6.2 yards per play on offense for the season. Their 27.4 points per game average is also tied for fifth in the NFL. But their offense has been inconsistent this season. They have only scored over 24 points once in the last four weeks, getting shut down by the pathetic Raiders defense over the last month of action.
The Steelers are tied for 15th in the NFL in rushing, averaging 4.3 yards per carry for the season. Without James Conner due to injury, and with Le’Veon Bell probably somewhere tropical right now, the Steelers are relying on Jaylen Samuels to carry the load out of the backfield. Samuels had 142 yards last week against the Patriots, proving that the running back position is extremely interchangeable in today’s league.
And Pittsburgh’s passing game is tied for eighth in the league, with a yards per attempt average of 7.4 tying them with the Atlanta Falcons. Against a soft Saints pass defense, Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster could have huge games here.
Mike Tomlin’s team is giving up 5.3 yards per play for the season, good for a tie for sixth in the NFL. They allow 22.6 points per game, which is good for 15th place in the league. Of course, being good doesn’t cut it against the Saints offense. Pittsburgh will have to be great defensively to come out of this road game with a win.
Against the run, the Steelers give up 4.1 yards per carry, which puts them in a tie for eighth in the NFL with the Vikings. Pittsburgh is also tied for eighth in the league against the pass, giving up an average of 6.6 yards per pass attempt. Carolina provided the blueprint to beating the Saints last week, showing that the Steelers need to get pressure on Drew Brees to have a chance.
Saints Week 16 Outlook
The Saints are tied for sixth in the league in offense, averaging 6.0 yards per play. Their 32.8 points per game rank behind only the Kansas City Chiefs as the second best scoring offense in football. But the Saints have scored under 14 points in two of their last three games, as they’ve shown a tendency to struggle against elite defenses. Seeing the Saints offense held in check is as rare as seeing the Undertaker lose at Wrestlemania, though, so don’t expect it again here.
On the ground, New Orleans’ 4.2 yards per carry puts them in a tie for 20th in the NFL. Alvin Kamara needs 140 yards in the last two games of the season to get to 1,000 yards rushing for the year, but will need to breach a strong Pittsburgh run defense to help himself get there.
Drew Brees leads the Saints’ passing attack, which averages 7.9 yards per pass attempt. That average puts them in a tie for fourth in the NFL alongside the Los Angeles Rams. Brees is completing 74.9% of his passes on the season, and is averaging 8.15 yards per attempt on the season. But the Saints’ MVP candidate has failed to throw for over 6.5 yards per attempt in any of his last three games.
On defense, the Saints allow 5.7 yards per play for the season, which is good for a tie for 17th in the NFL. They allow 20.9 points per game for the season, which puts them in a tie for seventh in the league. They haven’t allowed 20 points or more in any of their last six games. While everyone thinks of the Saints as an offense-first team, their defense is the real reason they are Super Bowl contenders this season.
Against the run, the Saints are tied for second in the league, allowing just 3.7 yards per carry to their competition. And against the pass, the Saints allow 7.5 yards per attempt to opponents, good only for a tie for 27th in the NFL.
Steelers vs. Saints Trends
The Steelers are 8-5-1 straight up this season and have gone 7-6-1 against the spread. In their last five games, the Steelers are 1-3-1 against the spread, with the lone win coming last week against Tom Brady and the Patriots. In December, the Steelers are 2-7 against the spread in their last nine. After a straight up win like the one they had last week, the Steelers are 4-1-1 against the spread in their last six games.
New Orleans, meanwhile, is 12-2 straight up for the season and 10-4 against the spread. They have covered the spread in each of their last four home games. In the Saints’ last 12 games, they are 10-2 against the spread. And playing on short weeks after Monday Night Football hasn’t hurt them too much, as the Saints are 8-2 against the spread in their last 10 games in the week following a Monday Night Football appearance.
Pittsburgh looked great last week on defense against the Patriots, but that win is overvalued given how bad the Patriots are looking on offense at the moment. The truth of the matter is that the Saints have one of the best defenses in the NFL, and should be able to limit Jaylen Samuels to force the Steelers to be one-dimensional.