PITTSBURGH — For the second time this season, Saints’ All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham didn’t catch a pass in a game in Sunday’s matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
One difference in this one was that Graham wasn’t targeted by Drew Brees after having only two passes thrown his way in an Oct. 19 game with the Detroit Lions when he was slowed by a shoulder injury.
The other difference was the Saints won 35-32, which was a silver lining for Graham after they dropped a 24-23 decision to the Lions. He said the Steelers made it clear early they were going to make it difficult for him.
“On our first play, 20 (safety Will Allen) jammed me at the line and then (safety) Troy Polamalu broke on me, so I knew that I was going to get a lot of attention,” a smiling Graham said. “They were undercutting all my routes, but this is a team and Drew is going to throw it to the open guy.”
Saints coach Sean Payton and Brees said they don’t go into a game with the idea they’re not going to target Graham.
“Somebody said after the game that Jimmy didn’t have a catch,” said Brees, who threw just 27 passes. “I had to think because it sounded crazy to me because he is such a big part of the plan and is always targeted.”
Super QBs meet
The Brees-Ben Roethlisberger duel, which saw them combine for 692 passing yards and seven touchdowns, was one of two Sunday featuring Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.
The other came in the New England Patriots’ matchup with the Green Bay Packers, which had Tom Brady squaring off with Aaron Rodgers.
That accounted for half of the eight active quarterbacks who’ve won a Super Bowl. The others are Peyton Manning, Manning, Joe Flacco and Russell Wilson.
Beat the clock
The Saints drove 80 yards in nine plays to score their second touchdown of the second quarter with just 36 seconds to play before halftime on a 4-yard pass from Brees to fullback Erik Lorig.
It was the seventh time this season that the Saints have scored in the final minute of the first half of their 12 games — beating the clock for five touchdowns and two field goals.
Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham booted field goals of 49 and 31 yards in the first half, which made Saints’ opponents 23 of 23 this season.
The streak actually was at 27 in a row dating to the 13th game of last season until Suisham was short on a 54-yard attempt on the final play of the first half.
The last miss before that was by the Panthers’ Graham Gano, who failed to connect on a 49-yarder on Dec. 8, 2013.
Saints nose tackle John Jenkins and wide receiver Nick Toon both made their first starts of the season.
Jenkins started for Brodrick Bunkley, who is out for the season with a quadriceps injury, and had five tackles. Toon, who was playing in just his 12th NFL game, caught two passes for 17 yards with an 11-yard TD in the third quarter — the first of his three-year career.
Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, a Gretna native and former UL-Lafayette standout, returned to the starting lineup Sunday after missing eight games with a fractured right forearm.
Taylor, who was injured in a Week 3 win over the Carolina Panthers, played with a soft black cast on his arm and had only one tackle. He fell while covering Kenny Stills on his 69-yard TD catch in the third quarter.
Super Bowl celebration
The Steelers and their fans celebrated the franchise’s first NFL title, which came 40 years ago in Super Bowl IX in the final professional game played at old Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.
More than 30 players from the team that beat the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 on Jan. 12, 1975 were honored at halftime. Among them were Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount, a former Southern University star, and wide receiver Frank Lewis, a Houma native.
The Saints’ inactives were WR Robert Meachem (ankle), RB Khiry Robinson (forearm), LB Kyle Knox (hand), CBs Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Terrence Frederick, T Nick Becton and NT Lawrence Virgil. … The interception by Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro in the second quarter was the first off Roethlisberger at home since the season opener, a span of 198 pass attempts. Defensive end Cameron Jordan also had a pick in the third quarter. … The Saints didn’t turn the ball over and are now 27-0 when they don’t give it away since Payton arrived in 2006. … Steelers wide receiver Lance Moore, a member of the Saints from 2005-13, had two catches for 13 yards and a two-point conversion against his former team.
-- Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.