Steelers halftime notes

NEW ORLEANS -- The Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers are tied, 3-3, at intermission.

Here are some halftime notes:

  • Pittsburgh's pass protection is confused by the Saints' blitz packages. New Orleans is spreading out the Steelers' offensive line by lining up wide and shooting through various gaps. Several times Pittsburgh's offensive line allowed Saints defenders to get through without much resistence to hit quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. New Orleans has two sacks in the first half.

  • Steelers coach Mike Tomlin made a risky call to try a 51-yard field goal late in the first half. Kicker Jeff Reed missed left, which gave the Saints solid field position to add a field goal of their own near the end of the first half.

  • Emmanuel Sanders, the reigning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, had a big, 37-yard punt return in the first half to set up Pittsburgh's only points, a field goal. The Steelers were losing the field-position battle early. But the rookie receiver changed that with another good return. Sanders has found a niche on the team as a return specialist.

  • The crowd noise is certainly a factor in this game. Despite a decent amount of Steelers fans, the Superdome is the loudest stadium I've been to this season. Roethlisberger blew a timeout in the first quarter due to the noise and confusion.

  • Pittsburgh's offensive play-calling will have to improve in the second half. The Steelers are running a lot on first down. New Orleans is blitzing on running and passing downs. So it's putting Pittsburgh in long down and distances. The Saints are hurting at defensive back, so there should be opportunities to take some shots downfield in the dome if the offensive line can improve in the second half.