Steelers ride defense to 20-10 win over listless Saints

Sports

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Kenny Pickett and George Pickens ran for 1-yard touchdowns and the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled away from the listless New Orleans Saints 20-10 on Sunday.

Fueled by the return of star outside linebacker T.J. Watt, the Steelers (3-6) held the Saints to 186 yards to win for just the second time in eight games. Pittsburgh sacked Andy Dalton twice and forced a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions to thwart any hope of a late rally by the Saints (3-7).

Watt hadn’t played since tearing his left pectoral late in a Week 1 win over Cincinnati. Pittsburgh’s defense looked lost at times without the 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He returned to practice two weeks ago and stressed all of his team’s preseason goals were still attainable even after the team’s worst start since 2013.

Plenty of work remains for the Steelers to emerge from their first-half funk. They put together a formula against the Saints that lacked fireworks but made up for it in efficiency.

Pittsburgh ran for a season-best 217 yards — including 99 by Najee Harris and 51 by Pickett — and didn’t turn it over for the third time this season. The Steelers are 3-0 in those games and 0-6 when they give it away at least once.

Pickett completed 18 of 30 passes for 199 yards without an interception. He also shook off a tweaked left ankle to convert a couple of late quarterback sneaks, including a 1-yard dive with 8:40 to play that gave the Steelers a 10-point lead.

The Saints, hoping to stay in the mix in the underwhelming NFC South, sputtered while dropping their second straight.

Andy Dalton connected on 17 of 27 for 174 yards with a touchdown and two late picks. The first, a deflection snared by recently activated Steelers safety Damontae Kazee, set up Pickett’s touchdown run. The second — which came one series after Dalton was stuffed on a botched fourth-down quarterback sneak — allowed the Steelers to seal it.

The Saints largely beat themselves. While the defense did sack Pickett six times, it also committed six penalties that gave the Steelers a first down, including a pass interference call against Paulson Adebo in the end zone that set up Pickett’s score. New Orleans was flagged 10 times for 74 yards in all, compared to just three penalties for the Steelers.

The miscues and a revived Pittsburgh running game allowed the Steelers to hold the ball for nearly 39 minutes and keep their rejuvenated defense fresh.

INJURIES

Saints: Lost LT Hayden Hurst to a concussion.

UP NEXT

Saints: Host the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday.

Steelers: Welcome Cincinnati next Sunday. Pittsburgh edged the Bengals in overtime in Week 1.

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