The New Orleans Saints looked shaky during the first half in their preseason Superdome opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
The team lost two players during the first quarter – offensive tackle Terron Armstead and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. Hoomananwanui was carted off the field. Both injuries were undisclosed.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger finished the first quarter in mid-season form. In fact, he looked all-pro. He went 12 for 17 with 148 yards passing, two touchdowns and finished with a 136 quarterback rating.
Tight end Jesse James caught a short pass for his first score for Pittsburgh. And Antonio Brown scorched the Saints secondary for a 57-yard score.
Saints linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was able to recover a fumble that got the Saints in business.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees played efficiently, finally hooking up with wide receiver Willie Snead, who made an incredible 17-yard touchdown catch about five minutes into the second quarter. The ball was tipped in traffic, but he managed to make the catch on his back in the end zone.
He had 47 yards receiving on that drive alone. It was a score the Saints needed.
Brees finished the night after that drive going 9 for 12 with 78 yards, one touchdown and a 119 quarterback rating.
The Saints ground game was quiet, but not bad. Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller both had around 20 yards each in the first half.
Quarterback Luke McCown came in for work with the second team. Pittsburgh kept its first team on the field when he went under center.
Pittsburgh finished the half strong with QB Landry Jones hitting a wide open Sammie Coates for a TD to extend their lead to 21-7.
QB Garrett Grayson hooked up with wide receiver Tommmylee Lewis for a 31-yard touchdown. Lewis is on the bubble but continues to make a case for a spot on the roster.
After the Saints pulled to within one score, the Steelers responded with a 40-yard field goal, stretching the score to 24-14 by the end of the third quarter.
As ho-hum as the second half of preseason football can be for fans, it’s easy to forget some of the players are risking their lives to stay in the league.
A reminder of that came when running back Daniel Lasco was clobbered in a helmet-to-helmet hit on special teams. He fumbled the ball, but the Saints got it back on an unnecessary roughness penalty. He was able to walk off the field with a little assistance from Saints trainers. He was taken to the locker room.
Defensive back Jimmy Pruitt was also injured on a special teams play. He was eventually carted off the sidelines.
The Steelers tacked on one more field goal with three minutes left in the game.
Grayson threw a pick on the Saints' next possession. He started 10 for 12, but the wheels came off as the clock ticked to the final whistle.
The Steelers beat the Saints 27-14 in a game pivotal for many of the fringe players. The team drops to 0-3 this preseason.
The Saints make their next round of cuts on Tuesday. Their final preseason game is Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens in the Superdome.
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