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New Orleans Saints: 6 questions we have facing the Steelers

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Entering the ‘dress rehearsal’ game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, we have plenty of concerns with the New Orleans Saints.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It started out as ‘no big deal’ when the New Orleans Saints dropped their opening preseason contest to the New England Patriots. There were plenty of positive takeaways, and we weren’t completely drawing conclusions on what we had seen. One week later, we witnessed a whole lot of ugly against the Houston Texans. The only consistent performance we saw was out of the first-team defense.

So, what are some things that flat out concern us heading into the ‘dress rehearsal’ game with the Pittsburgh Steelers?

What’s the offensive line going to look like?

Two preseason games in, and one deficiency for the Saints has been the play of the offensive line. Lack of push, generating run lanes, sloppy penalties, and adequate pass protection have been consistent themes for just about anyone playing on the front line thus far. We want to believe that Andrus Peat settling into his right guard spot should help, but maybe our concern is more with the left side with Tim Lelito. Either way, someone has to step up. Otherwise, Drew Brees will be running for his life more than a few times.

Can roster bubble players turn it around?

Marcus Murphy, John Jenkins, Michael Mauti, and Brandon Coleman are just several of the players from last year’s squad that are in jeopardy of losing a spot this year with others playing a level up. In the same breath, it’s hard to ignore the encouraging play of players like Tommylee Lewis, Craig Robertson, De’Vante Harris, and Ken Crawley. The first batch of roster cuts are right around the corner, as teams have to be at a 75-man roster capacity by 4:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, August 30. It’s the last chance for some of these players to make an impression.

Can we just get a kicker already?

It’s maddening to be in this situation again. Last year, the Saints clearly chose the wrong guy. With veterans Kai Forbath and Connor Barth fairly neck-and-neck, it’s time for someone to definitively emerge. It’s been a stalemate for months, and the team needs the solution. Personally, I’d trust Barth over Forbath, especially given his ability on kickoffs. He was 23-for-28 last season (82.1 percent), while Forbath was 10-for 15 (66.7 percent).

Will the first-team defense put on an encore performance?

If there’s anything you can take away from the preseason action and training camp that’s real, then it’d be the play of the defense. They’ll have a true test on their hands going up against a high-powered Steelers offense led by Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. The improvement of the front seven is everything, so it should be interesting to see how the pairings work for this contest.

Will Garrett Grayson beat out Luke McCown?

If there’s one thing that drives me bonkers, it’s the fact the Saints have had to keep three quarterbacks on their roster. Sure, it’s a risk only going with two, but nearly half of the NFL teams have went with this model. That roster spot could be better used elsewhere, and it could be the deciding factor for some practice and preseason standouts to make the final squad. After a rough outing against the Patriots, Luke McCown performed well against the Texans. Garrett Grayson was the exact opposite.

Can this team get off to a fast start?

Turnovers have plagued the Saints in their first two games, and it has been early and often. Playing in front of the home crowd should hope (at least you think), but this mental mistakes and errors have put the team in a whole to start. Playing catch up is not ideal, and the Saints must attempt to play mistake-free football for a change. The black and gold have not won a preseason game in over two years, so winning wouldn’t be a bad thing either.