Divide and conquer.
Based on a report from CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, the Saints' coaching staff is divided, so this presents the opportunity for the Steelers to conquer today.
According to La Canfora, Saints head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan "strongly dislike each other" and a change is coming this off-season. That likely won't come as a surprise, considering the Saints' bottom-feeder status in most defensive statistical categories. It further won't come as a shock, considering Ryan's brash and outspoken nature. He scoffed after the Cowboys fired him in 2012, and he has been a defensive coordinator for Cleveland and Oakland prior to that dating back to 2004.
He often has referred to himself as the best defensive coordinator in the NFL, and perhaps that attitude has seen him looking for head coaching opportunities for nearly a decade. When Dallas canned him, he said that he wouldn't be out of work for long.
"I inherited a team that was 31st in the league in defense and made them better," Ryan told ESPN at the time. "I (expletive) made them a hell of a lot better. I'll be out of work for like five minutes."
His older brother, Rex, the head coach of the New York Jets, is similarly embattled and probably in lame-duck status right now. He found a way to defeat the Steelers in Week 10, casting perhaps a feeling of pessimism over the Steelers' game against Ryan's Saints in Week 13. But just as that kind of motivation can bring out positive performances, it can fall apart quickly as well.
The Saints' defense doesn't have the run-stopping ability the Jets do and, if everyone in the locker room knows the defensive coordinator is gone after the season, they may be inclined to do their own thing on the field.
Here's hoping that's the case.