Steelers Stymie Saints 27-14
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said his team is in a race to get better. After losing their 3rd preseason game of 2016 Friday night, Saints fans are hoping their team is the tortoise from the "Tortoise And The Hare" fable.
Long term, the Saints may win a race to get better. Short term, they're far from the finish line.
The Pittsburgh Steelers stymied the Saints, taking advantage of a struggling offensive line, turnovers, and lack of a pass rush, handing New Orleans a 27-14 defeat.
"One thing that's concerning and troubling right now is our ability to protect (the quarterback) and our ability to rush the (opposing) passer," explained Saints head coach Sean Payton. "Those two things are very concerning."
Week 3 of the preseason is a benchmark for many teams, with starters playing their most extended minutes before many key players sit out the final week of the preseason in week 4.
New Orleans starting defense couldn't get off the field early, allowing Pittsburgh to drive 74 yards on 15 plays for an eventual touchdown on the game's opening drive.
The Steelers touchdown was promptly followed by a Saints three and out, with the Steelers starting offense driving for another lengthy touchdown drive, ending with a 57 yard scoring strike from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown.
New Orleans standout starting left tackle Terron Armstead left the game with an undisclosed injury, adding more issues to an already struggling O-Line.
"Obviously he's a real good player and yet we're getting beat at guard at times, so I wouldn't say that was the sole reason (for our O-Line struggles)," said Payton, who didn't give an update on Armstead's injury.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees did lead the team to one scoring drive, a 12 play 78 yard march that ended on an impressive 3rd and goal touchdown catch by Willie Snead.
"It was a good play," said Payton. "It was a good second effort. The ball came loose and he was able to still track it."
While the catch was nice, the overall performance of the Saints starters was bad.
"This was not an A performance by any means, nor has any of the games in the preseason been that," noted Brees.
Second year quarterback Garrett Grayson played the second half for the Saints, throwing a touchdown pass to Tommylee Lewis, followed by poor decision making and two interceptions.
"He struggled tonight. I was disappointed with a couple of those plays," said Payton of Grayson's play. "I'd like to see him further along at this point than he is."
Luke McCown appears to be the second-string quarterback with Grayson's up and down play continuing.
New Orleans has lost 8 consecutive preseason games, dating back to 2014.
They'll have an opportunity to snap the losing skid Thursday when they host the Baltimore Ravens. It'll serve the backup and bubble players well, as key players such as Drew Brees and Cameron Jordan won't dress out.