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Saints vs. Steelers: Broderick Bunkley placed on IR, New Orleans run defense gets a little worse

Without Bunkley's presence in the middle, the Saints will be a weakened defensive unit. This should mean a Steelers' game plan that includes a lot of Le'Veon Bell.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It's a question of game-planning more than anything else.

On paper, it would seem the Steelers have an excellent advantage in terms of matchups when they take on the New Orleans Saints Sunday in Week 13. With the weather moving in, rain and falling temperatures during the game (high of 55 is forecast), it would appear the cold-weather season is fully upon the NFL, and that tends to mean running the football.

That would normally be a boost for the Steelers. The fact the Saints lost their primary run defender, veteran nose tackle Broderick Bunkley, for the year with a torn quadriceps muscle, only supports the Steelers' rationale for finding a way to get running back Le'Veon Bell 20 or more carries.

The trick to this is the Saints also have one of the game's weaker pass-defenses. That might suggest a game plan in which balance can be key, or at least, a passing game can open up the running game.

Steelers ring Bell for 204 yards vs. Titans.

The Steelers faced a similar problem against the New York Jets in Week 10. The Jets had a strong run defense but weren't statistically very strong against the pass. Instead of concentrating a large effort against the Jets' secondary, they came out with a balanced game plan and, after a few turnovers (two in the passing game and one on special teams), all of the energy the hapless Jets would need was provided. The Steelers would eventually commit four turnovers and fall 20-13 in what could end up being a critical loss to another team destined to draft in the top 5.

The distribution of carries for Bell won't feel the same as where he'll stand at the end of the game. It's important for the Steelers to control the clock. Now, whether that means Bell gets carries or the Steelers use him as part of a short passing attack aimed for completions and possession remains to be seen, but it would seem very much like Bell can expect upwards of 25 touches in this game, if not more.

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