Season-shaping plays: Long TD dooms Steelers in loss to Saints

This is the 12th in a series that looks at 17 plays that shaped the Pittsburgh Steelers' season -- one from every game.

For this series we will go in chronological order.

No. 1: Le'Veon Bell's 38-yard touchdown run in a 30-27 win against the Cleveland Browns.

No, 2: Wide receiver Justin Brown's lost fumble after a 6-yard reception in a 26-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

No. 3: Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones' sack of quarterback Cam Newton for an 8-yard loss in a 37-19 win against the Carolina Panthers.

No. 4: Wide receiver Antonio Brown's drop of a sure touchdown pass in a 27-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No. 5: Cornerback Brice McCain's 21-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 17-9 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

No. 6: Cornerback Cortez Allen getting beat for a 51-yard touchdown catch by Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron.

No. 7: Bell's 43-yard reception in a 30-23 win against the Houston Texans.

No. 8: Cornerback William Gay returns an interception 33 yards for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts.

No. 9: Wide receiver Markus Wheaton's 47-yard touchdown catch in a 43-23 win against the Baltimore Ravens.

No. 10: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's rare and untimely interception in a 20-13 loss to the New York Jets.

No. 11: Bell stretches for a critical touchdown against the Tennessee Titans on the way to a career game.

No. 12: New Orleans Saints wide receiver catches Steelers cornerback standing Stills.

The setting: The Steelers had cut the Saints’ lead to 21-13 late in the third quarter on a short Bell touchdown run and were poised to get the ball back when New Orleans struck with the biggest play of the game.

The play: The Saints, facing a third-and-10 from the Steelers’ 31-yard line, lined up Kenny Stills in the slot and he ran an out and up. Quarterback Drew Brees received plenty of time from his offensive line and made one of his easier touchdown throws after cornerback Ike Taylor bit on the out cut. Stills had at least 10 yards on Taylor when he hauled in Brees' pass, and the second-year man had a clear path to the end zone. His touchdown re-established a double-digit lead for the Saints, and the Steelers never seriously threatened the rest of the way in a 35-32 loss that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated.

What it meant for the bigger picture: Taylor played in his first game since breaking his forearm in late September, and the Stills’ touchdown raised red flags about the veteran cornerback’s ability to overcome a serious injury and still keep up with younger wide receivers. The Steelers, meanwhile, gave up their third long touchdown pass in as many games, and the loss to the Saints dropped them to 7-5. The Steelers had taken a playoff mentality into the Saints game. After that loss they knew they had no margin for error if they wanted to win the AFC North.