WHEN: Noon, Sunday
WHERE: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
RADIO: WWL-AM, 870 in New Orleans; KMDL-FM, 97.3 in Lafayette; WDGL-FM, 98.1 in Baton Rouge
RECORDS: The Steelers are 7-4 and third in the AFC North. The Saints are 4-7 and are essentially in a stalemate for first with Atlanta in the weak NFC South before tiebreakers.
LAST WEEK: The Steelers were off, making them the second team in a row that is facing the Saints after their off week. Meanwhile, New Orleans on Monday night lost its third straight game overall and at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the Ravens 34-27, in large part because the home team surrendered a career-high 182 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries to Baltimore running back Justin Forsett. Also, for the second week in a row, the Saints allowed their opponent to convert nine of 13 third-down situations.
COACHES: Steelers, Mike Tomlin, 8th season (78-45); Saints, Sean Payton, 8th season (77-46)
(League rank in parentheses)
Total yards: Saints, 433.6 (2nd); Steelers, 406.4 (5th)
Rushing: Saints, 124.8 (8th); Steelers, 119.5 (T-10th)
Passing: Saints, 308.8 (3rd); Steelers, 286.9 (5th)
Points: Saints, 26.2 (T-8th); Steelers, 26.2 (T-8th)
Total yards: Saints, 377.1 (27th); Steelers, 343.8 (13th)
Rushing: Saints, 123.8 (23rd); Steelers, 102.2 (10th)
Passing: Saints, 253.3 (23rd); Steelers, 241.6 (16th)
Points: Saints, 26 (21st); Steelers, 23.9 (19th)
Steelers: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, wide receiver Antonio Brown, tight end Heath Miller, linebacker James Harrison, defensive end Cameron Heyward, cornerback Ike Taylor, safety Troy Polamalu
Saints: Quarterback Drew Brees, running back Mark Ingram, tight end Jimmy Graham, wide receiver Marques Colston, linebacker Curtis Lofton, safety Kenny Vaccaro, cornerback Keenan Lewis
Offense: Pittsburgh’s offense counts on a few league leaders in various categories. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for the fourth-most yards (3,270) and fifth-most touchdowns (24) in the NFL; and the fact that he’s tossed only six interceptions has helped him post the fourth-highest passer rating (105.3).
Meanwhile, receiver Antonio Brown leads the NFL in catches (88), is second in receiving yards (1,161) and is tied with several players for fourth in touchdown grabs (nine, a stalemate including Saints tight end Jimmy Graham). Running back Le’Veon Bell is No. 2 in the NFL in rushing yards (951), and he’s second on his team in receiving yards (484).
All of which is to say things in Pittsburgh won’t be easier for a struggling Saints defense.
Defense: The good news for the Saints is that many of the Steelers’ key defenders have been hurt. Safety Troy Polamalu and rookie first-round draft selection/linebacker Ryan Shazier were sidelined for the Steelers’ previous two games with leg injuries. Cornerback Ike Taylor (broken forearm bone) and linebacker Jarvis Jones (fractured wrist) haven’t played in a game since they were hurt Sept. 21.
Even if they all return after their off week for the Saints, it’s possible they won’t be at 100 percent.
Regardless, Saints quarterback Drew Brees can expect pressure on his drop-backs from linebacker James Harrison and defensive end Cameron Heyward, who each are tied for the team lead in Pittsburgh with four sacks.
Special teams: Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham is 7-of-8 from between 20 and 29 yards out, 1-of-2 from 50+ and 10-of-10 from between 30-49. But it seems these days, no kicker misses against the Saints: New Orleans’ opponents are 21-of-21 on field-goal tries so far this season.
The Steelers have given up a 108-yard kickoff return touchdown, though the Saints haven’t been able to score a touchdown off a special-teams return of any kind since the first week of the 2011 season.
-- The Saints will be trying to avoid going 0-4 against the AFC North this season in Pittsburgh. New Orleans has already lost to Cleveland, Cincinnati and Baltimore, all teams with physical defensive fronts that are characteristic of the division the Saints encounter once every four years.
-- The contest will mark the first time the Saints clash with their ex-receiver and fan favorite Lance Moore. Before being released in the offseason and subsequently signing with the Steelers, Moore caught 346 passes for 4,281 yards and 38 touchdowns in New Orleans from the 2006 through the 2013 regular seasons. He caught a two-point conversion during Super Bowl XLIV, during which the Saints won their lone NFL championship.
Moore remains No. 7 in catches and receiving yards as well as fifth in touchdown grabs all-time for the Saints. In his first year with Pittsburgh, he’s caught 11 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
-- It is believed Saints nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley tore his quadriceps in the team’s 34-27 loss to Baltimore, and his season is most probably over, the NFL Network reported Tuesday. If that is indeed the case, the ninth-year pro is the third player on the Saints’ defense to suffer a season-ending injury since Nov. 9.
Under Bunkley on the Saints depth chart are 2013 third-round draft selection John Jenkins and Brandon Deaderick, an NFL veteran in his first season with New Orleans. Bunkley finished Monday with 17 tackles on the season, eight of which were solo.
-- Ramon Antonio Vargas