WHAT WE LEARNED

Circle this game on your Saints schedule if New Orleans wins the division and makes the playoffs. This was the kind of game the team desperately needed after three consecutive losses. This was the kind of effort, execution and toughness that teams worthy of making the postseason usually exhibit. The key is whether New Orleans can play this way next week, but this was by far their best win of the season. Good stuff.

GIVE THE DEFENSE CREDIT

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell rushed for 71 yards in the first quarter, but credit the Saints defense for shutting him down after that. When Bell gets rolling rushing, the Steelers are very tough to beat. But making him almost a nonfactor and having Mark Ingram run well was a huge key for the Saints.

GRAHAM MUST GET THE BALL

Despite the win and the gaudy numbers by Saints quarterback Drew Brees, there is no excuse for tight end Jimmy Graham not to get a target Sunday. Graham is too big of a factor and too good not to have one pass thrown his way in the game. He is one of the few receivers on the team worth forcing the ball to.

CAM’S THE MAN

The candidate for the Saints best interception of the season goes to defensive end Cameron Jordan, who batted a pass by Ben Roethlisberger up in the air and then caught the ball and returned it to the Steelers’ 15 in the third quarter. Brees threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to receiver Nick Toon two plays later to make the score 21-6.

STILLS RUNS TO NO. 1

Based on his route running, consistency and big-play ability, especially the past few weeks, Kenny Still is the best receiver the Saints have. He was great against the Steelers. He has done what he is supposed to do, improve his level of play in all areas this season.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

(OK, this is the place where you can insert your favorite NFC South joke.) If there is an advantage for the Saints playing in the NFC South, this is it: The poor division has given the team a chance to work through their troubles and not have their season ruined by losing games.

UP NEXT

The Saints host the Carolina Panthers at noon Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

-- Pierce W. Huff