The Pittsburgh Steelers do not have a rich history with the New Orleans Saints, but when they do get together every four years, it’s great football between the two different black and gold gridironers. BTSC takes a look at the series that began 55 years ago.
Here’s a brief tale of the tape:
Points: Points: Steelers 355, Saints 320
Wins: Saints 9, Steelers 7
Home Record: Steelers 3-3, Saints 6-4
Biggest Win Margin: 23 points - Steelers 37 Saints 14 (10/17/1993)
Closest Win Margin: 3 points - Saints 27, Steelers 24 (12/21/1969), Saints 27, Steelers 24 (11/19/1984), Steelers 9 Saints 6 (12/16/1990), Saints 32, Steelers 29 (10/6/2002), Saints 35, Steelers 32 (11/30/2014), Saints 31, Steelers 28 (12/23/18)
Overtime Games: 0
October 29, 1967 - Steelers 14, Saints 10
The first time the Steelers and Saints ever met acquaintances was at Tulane Stadium, during the team from the Big Easy’s first NFL season. The winless Saints got out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter behind Charlie Durkee’s 37-yard field goal. In the second, QB Gary Cuozzo hooked-up with rookie Danny Abramowitz (12 catches for 154 yards) to move down the field and Packer legend Jim Taylor finished the drive off right before intermission to give the expansion Saints a 10-0 lead. After no scoring in the third, the visitors from the Steel City would make it a game. Clendon Thomas’ interception of Cuozzo gave the offense good field position and the Steelers, ineffective due to four Kent Nix picks, called on Bill Nelsen, who completed five passes in six attempts down the stretch. When J.R. Wilburn caught a five-yard pass from Nelsen, the Steelers chances increased. only down three with 5:50 remaining. The Steelers, in their legendary Batman uniforms, got the ball back and then turned to San Diego State decathlon star Don Shy, who rushed for 108 yards. Shy took a handoff from Nelsen and raced 33 yards for the winning tally with less than a minute left in the game. Pittsburgh found a way to win ugly to go to 2-5, while Saints fans would have to wait for their team’s first victory.
November 25, 1974 - Steelers 28, Saints 7
In what wouldn’t be their first excursion to Tulane Stadium, the Steelers traveled to New Orleans for as the Saints appeared for the first time ever on Monday Night Football. The Steelers were embracing their identity as smash mouth on both sides of the line of scrimmage as the run game would pile up 272 yards on the ground behind 114 from Franco Harris and 99 courtesy of Terry Bradshaw’s comfortable feet back home in the Pelican State. The rushing output was more than the Steel Curtain would allow from the not-so heavenly Saints, who accumulated a mere 178 yards of total offense, surrendered the ball four times (three on Archie Manning interceptions by Jack Ham, Andy Russell, and J.T. Thomas), and suffered six sacks. The Steelers started out the scoring barrage with a Bradshaw pass of 31-yards to Frank Lewis for the score. Then the original TB12 took it in himself from 18-yards away in the second. In the third, the visitors put more points up when Lynn Swann returned a punt 64-yards to glory, and Larry Brown pulled in a one-yard pass from Brad to close out the game by a score of 28-7 to raise their record to 8-2-1. Less than two months later, the Steelers would celebrate on a muddier version of that very field as Super Bowl Champions.
November 29, 1987 - Saints 20, Steelers 16
In that strike season of 1987, the Steelers were in contention at 6-4 in the AFC race to the postseason and took to Three Rivers Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend to host a 7-3 Jim Mora led Saints team looking for their very first winning season and post-season berth. Turnovers would be the story of the game, and unfortunately, most were committed by the Steel City footballers. After blocking a Harry Newsome punt, their sixth of the year, the Saints put points up on the first series of the ball game when Morten Andersen’s 36-yard field goal attempt glided through the uprights for a 3-0 lead. But the Steelers defense came to overcome any offensive deficiencies when Dwayne Woodruff’s 35-yard pick six of Bobby Hebert and Mike Merriweather’s sack and fumble recovery put the Steelers in position for a 5-yard Walter Abercrombie scoring run and a 14-3 lead at halftime.
The second half would belong to New Orleans though. The Steelers would weaken with the loss of Keith Willis to an ankle injury and the surrendering of a drive of 6:53 and a Ruben Mayes 5-yard touchdown lessened the gap to 14-10. A Pat Swilling strip sack and recovery by Sam Mills of Mark Malone gave the ball back to New Orleans, but Tim Johnson’s ankle tackle of Hebert chased the New Orleans quarterback from the game. It didn’t matter though because Malone couldn’t overcome his interception affliction and Johnnie Poe thieved the ball. The defense almost got the ball right back when Edmund Nelson stripped Mayes, but the overzealous trio of Thomas Everett, David Little, and Delton Hall tried to pick it up and didn’t fall on the ball, giving the ball back to New Orleans. Later Andersen missed from 50. Then an Abercrombie fumble with the Steelers nearing midfield gave the Saints the ball back and they took advantage with a 19-yard touchdown toss from a returning Hebert to Eric Martin. New Orleans now had a 17-14 advantage lighting up the scoreboard with 8:16 to go. Malone’s attempt to counter fluttered away when his floater to John Stallworth was picked-off by Milton Mack. The Steelers defense stiffened leading to an Andersen 32-yard field goal to extend the visitor’s lead to 20-14 with 6:10 to go.
After struggling all afternoon, Malone hooked up several times with Calvin Sweeney to get inside the 5 with the clock rapidly expiring. But the Steelers couldn’t get in due to a Malone tipped pass by Ricky Jackson not reaching a wide-open Frank Pollard and stuffed runs by Rodney Carter, Merril Hoge, and Polllard resulted in an epic goal line stand for New Orleans with 2:21 left on the game clock. The game wasn’t over though as Chuck Noll’s defense forced a three-and-out and the punter Brian Hansen ran out of the back of the end zone to avoid a block and surrender the safety. With :53 left, Malone and the Steelers had one last chance from his own 44 with no time outs. After a completion to Stallworth to the New Orleans 37 and and encroachment by the defense, No. 16 threw a perfect pass to Weegie Thompson who got out of bounds at the 14, and Sweeney who got inside the 5. But turnovers were the poison for Pittsburgh. Having to hurry because of getting sacked by Pat Swilling, Malone got one more pass off, but Sweeney would fall down and Dave Waymer intercepted the ball to end a pretty wild game. The 20-16 win secured the Saints their first-ever winning season, while the six turnovers and four sacks were way too much to overcome and put a huge damper on the playoff hopes for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
October 19, 1993 - Steelers 37, Saints 14
Rod Woodson was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1993 and he exemplified that honor in Week 7 contest with the undefeated Saints at Three Rivers Stadium. No. 26 intercepted quarterback Wade Wilson’s first pass and returned it 63 yards to paydirt with only 1:39 erased from the game clock. Hot Rod wasn’t done though, on the next drive, Wilson’s fourth pass of the game was nabbed by the All-Pro corner and set the stage for quarterback Neil O’Donnell’s screen pass to Barry Foster for a 20-yard touchdown and an early 14-0 lead. After rookie Deon Figures recovered a fumble with the Saints driving, the Men of Steel got another ten points before the half by riding the legs of Foster (75 yards rushing, 35 yards receiving, 2 TDs) before exiting with a shoulder injury. Leroy Thompson replaced No. 29 and achieved his first 100-yard game as a pro. The score was 20-0 at intermission.
After two Gary Anderson field goals in the third and Eric Green hauling in a 26-yard scoring pass from Mike Tomczak, the Saints pulled the plug on Wilson after an uncharacteristically poor performance (6 of 23 for 85 yards and three picks) down 37-0. Mike Buck came in and completed 1O of 11 passes for 164 yards with two meaningless touchdown drives, but the damage was done and the Steelers prevailed by the score of 37-14. The defense was the story of the game for the Steelers, ending with five sacks (two from Kevin Greene), three picks and two fumble recoveries. Bill Cowher’s team extend their winning streak to four games after starting the season at 0-2.
November 12th, 2006 - Pittsburgh 38, New Orleans 31
We all know the epic 2005 Steelers and their Super Bowl XL triumph, but the hangover that ensued was debilitating as Bill Cowher’s crew limped out to a 2-6 record. Enter Drew Brees and the 6-2 Saints for a potential drubbing at Heinz Field. But Brees wasn’t the only gunslinger at Heinz Field, Ben Roethlisberger and Willie Parker ensured that there’d be a shootout at the Confluence Corral. Roethlisberger to Hines Ward alone in the open field for 37 yards got the home team on the scoreboard on a 3rd and 8 on the first series, then Big Ben did it again with a TD of the two-yard variety to Heath Miller made possible by a Brett Keisel fumble recovery when Aaron Smith nailed Billy Miller, jarring the ball free. The Saints found their way back though on a Brees touchdown pass to Terrance Copper on a play well-defensed by Ike Taylor, a John Carney chip-shot field goal, and a 15-yard run on a double-reverse by electric rookie Reggie Bush. The onslaught of points was briefly interrupted by a long Ben-to-Santonio Holmes play that precipitated a Jeff Reed field goal, but Brees kept connecting with brilliant rookie Marques Colston (10 catches for 162 yards) to drive down the field and end the half at 24-17 on a run-in by Deuce McAllister.
Before the game, Joey Porter and Aaron Smith reportedly gave impassioned speeches with finger-pointing by Porter and tears by Smith, and it worked for a short time. But whatever was said at halftime obviously struck a longer lasting chord. The Steelers aggressively fought back in the second half despite a Jeff Reed miss on their first possession. Bush, who scored his first NFL touchdown earlier, was walloped by Larry Foote, and Ryan Clark recovered the fumble. That set the stage for a beautiful play-action, pump-and-bomb executed by Ben Roethlisberger, who launched it for a 38-yard touchdown to Cedric Wilson. Then, after a Carney miss, Willie Parker silently declared it a race, as he reeled off runs of 72, 9, and 3 more for the score and a 31-24 advantage. The defense forced a New Orleans punt, and Fast Willie done did it again. This time dashes of 76 and 4 did the trick, and your heroes in hypocycloids were up 38-24. When Brees waved Aaron Stecker long for a bomb of 48 yards and Deuce McAllister fielded what may have been an errant direct snap, the Saints looked to be on the verge of another comeback with 8:09 remaining in the fourth quarter. but the Steelers offense burned nearly 4 minutes off of the clock and put it in the defenses hands to stop the Mardis Gras Magicians from tying up the game again. New Orleans was threatening to tie, but Tyrone Carter halted a Saints comeback effort with a forced fumble that was recovered by Ryan Clark to seal a more jubilant post-game locker room atmosphere.
December 23, 2018 - Saints 31, Steelers 28
In a game that nobody realized would be Antonio Brown’s final game in a Steelers uniform, Mike Tomlin’s team traveled to New Orleans in what wasn’t entirely a must-win situation for playoff hopes, but ultimately was. The Steelers entered the contest with a record of 8-5-1 to take on the dangerous 12-2 Saints in a 4:25 game. Knowing that they had to win to keep pace, the pressure was on Mike Tomlin’s team right before the Christmas holiday. Punting on your first series I is not ideal, but an interception of gadget quarterback Taysom Hill by Sean Davis provided excitement when a horse collar personal foul gave Pittsburgh the ball at their 40 and an eventual 3-0 lead on a Chris Boswell 49-yard field goal. Controversy struck on the next drive as Drew Brees moved the Saints into Steelers’ territory, but Mark Ingram was stuffed on a 3rd and 2 on the edge of field goal range. Sean Payton decided to go for it, and Brees targeted Alvin Kamara deep in the endzone when Joe Haden had a phantom pass interference called on him, giving New Orleans the ball at the one-yard line. Ingram plunged into the endzone on the next play to give the Saints the 7-3 lead. The Steelers would respond when Ben found Vance McDonald on a 49-yard pass play, but the NFL’s best red-zone offense stalled and had to rely on another Boswell three. More controversy on another phantom PI, this time on Morgan Burnett, who had good position on tight end Ben Watson. Two plays later Alvin Kamara walked into the endzone to give the Saints a 14-6 lead. Later in the second quarter and starting at their own 3, a Roethlisberger to Jaylen Samuels pitch and catch made the score 14-12. The Steelers went for the two, and Roethlisberger connected with Eli Rogers to tie with :40 left in the half. But Brees moved the ball quickly into field goal range after a big catch and run by Alvin Kamara. A Will Lutz 43-yard field goal was good, making the score 17-14 heading into halftime.
The Saints started the second half with the football, and Kamara went off in both the running and passing game to cap off the drive with a one-yard plunge into the endzone to make the score 24-14. Desperately needing to get back in it, Ben Roethlisberger delivered with huge completions to JuJu Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown and Ryan Switzer to set up a 3rd and goal touchdown to the man they call Tony Toe Tap (Brown) getting the Steelers back within three with 4:48 left in the third quarter. The defense would get in the mix by way of two sacks of Brees achieved by T.J. Watt and Stephon Tuitt. It took no time at all for Roethlisberger to find Brown again for a touchdown to make the score 28-24 with 1:02 left in the third. Mistakes were made by both teams as Stevan Ridley’s fumble gave the ball back to the Saints. but Lutz had a 50-yard attempt blocked by L.J. Fort. On their next possession the Steelers’ offense was stopped short and lined up to punt. Rather than another Jordan Berry punt, the team decided to run a fake punt to the up-man, Roosevelt Nix, and he was stopped just shy of the line to gain. The decision turned the ball over around midfield to the Saints, down four points with 4:06 left in the 4th quarter. Another pivotal and egregious PI call came, this time on Joe Haden, as New Orleans passed on a fourth-and-two at the Men of Steel 26 and the pass intended for Michael Thomas fell incomplete. With that gift, Brees hit Thomas for a touchdown and a 31-28 advantage. However, there was still 1:25 left on the clock and, despite no timeouts remaining, plenty of time for No. 7. But a 4th and 15 obstacle stood in the way first and an icy-veined Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown for the first down. The Steelers were driving and thriving, but JuJu Smith-Schuster’s extra effort ended with the ball on the turf and then in enemy hands. No big finish for the Steelers as the New Orleans Saints and suspect calls buried the playoff hopes of your heroes in hypocycloids.