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Steelers @ Saints: Interview with the Enemy

Let's all get to know the 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers a little better by hearing what SB Nation's Steelers blogger, Michael Bean has to say. I had the chance to ask Michael a few questions about the other Black & Gold team of the NFL and his answers to my questions are below. Hopefully you enjoy my questions and enjoy Michael's answers as much if not more. As always, everything is available for comment.  


CSC:  How is the return of Big Ben going? Any signs of rustiness? Have fans welcomed him back with open arms? 

 As we talked about on your podcast (thanks for having me on), Roethlsiberger has looked very sharp in his first two games of the year since returning from a four-game suspension against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6. Big Ben has 5 TDs to just 1 interception, and has looked exceptionally sharp throwing the ball. He's not excelled in any one area either - he's looked good checking down, throwing the ball over the middle and to the outside on intermediate routes, and he's thrown a nice deep ball on several occasions. If he can resist the temptation to try to extend the play too often by tucking it down and trying to make the first guy miss, he'll be just fine. Doing that led to three fumbles last week against the Dolphins. Thankfully, the Steelers lost only one of the three fumbles. 
CSC:  The Steelers have a very stout run defense but their ability to stop the pass leaves a bit to be desired. Where are the weaknesses in the secondary that Brees will probably be looking to exploit?

BTSC:  There are no 'weaknesses' per se, at least not when the Steelers' have Troy Polamalu healthy. But there's undeniably yards to be had for teams and quarterbacks that are willing to take the 5-7 yard completion, not force things or turn the ball over, and hope that the playmakers can make a guy miss after the catch. With the emergence of Lawrence Timmons at inside linebacker, there seems to be less room to throw the ball over the middle of the field to the running back (for Steelers fans, think Ray Rice dusting James Farrior last year). But without Reggie Bush fully healthy, I'm not sure Brees will have those kinds of mismatches in the middle of the field. So, basically, if Brees can avoid turnovers, complete a high percentage of passes that don't necessarily gobble up huge chunks of yardage at a time, then convert once inside the red zone, the Saints may be just fine.

CSC:  It looks like the Steelers have been hit with a bunch of injuries, which means someone else has to step up in their place. Who has impressed while filling in that Saints fans wouldn't know but will need to keep their eye on this weekend? 

BTSC:  With the injury to defensive end Aaron Smith, all eyes will be on second-year man Ziggy Hood to step up and have a big game in his absence. Hood, a first-round draft pick following the Steelers' most recent Super Bowl, has neither disappointed nor had much of an opportunity to live up to his high draft status. This week's the time for him to make a name for himself in Steeler Nation. Because it looks like LaMarr Woodley and Flozell Adams will be healthy enough to play, the Steelers should otherwise be at close to full strength come Sunday. 

CSC:  Drew Brees has not been himself lately and many fans think it's because his mind has been wrapped up in the birth of a new baby. Troy Polamalu's wife gave birth on September 16th and since right about that time, he hasn't had the same impact. Are babies causing our Pro-Bowler's to suck? If not, to what do you attribute Polamalu's slump?

BTSC:  Great question, and I just don't know if I have an answer for that being that I don't have kids myself just yet. All I can say is that I thought Brees sounded very tired when listening to a recent interview this week on XX 1090 in San Diego. Brees is a competitive son-of-a-gun, but he's also a good guy and a family man. I imagine he's been doing his fair share of chipping in at night in terms of waking up to settle his newborn son. 

CSC:   Any advice or words of wisdom to fans of a team that might - might! - have a slight case of Super Bowl hangover?

BTSC:  It may not be this week, but after losing to the Steelers, don't slide into a prolonged losing streak like the Steelers did a year ago when they dropped five in a rown in the middle of the year. Considering how weak the NFC is this year, 9 wins is probably going to be more than enough to secure one of the two Wild Card berths at least. The Saints, for not looking that great to start the year, are just a few plays away from a 5-2 or even 6-1 record. No time to panic, no time to not believe in one another. Things can get out of hand ina hurry. But that time has not at all yet come down in the Big Easy.

CSC:  Care to make a  prediction

BTSC:  Not really, sorry! I'd love both teams to win here, but obviously have to cheer for the Steelers to improve to 6-1. I think Pittsburgh is clearly the better team from top to bottom, but the Saints have plenty of 'X' factors in their favor. Obviously playing at home on Sunday Night Football on Halloween is a big one, but for me, I turn to just how insanely special Brees is as a competitor in situations like this. I look for him to play really well this Sunday unless the Steelers' defense turns in one of its best performances in recent memory, which don't get me wrong, they're entirely capable of. I won't pick a winner, but I will predict either overtime or a game decided by a last-minute field goal by either side.