By HCR Staff | Dec. 21, 2018
The New Orleans Saints can lock up the NFC’s No. 1 seed with a home victory this week vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the task will be made more difficult because the Saints’ vaunted offensive line is banged up.
In Monday night’s hard-fought win over Carolina, the Saints had to finish the game without starting center Max Unger and backup left tackle Jermon Bushrod – who had been playing in place of starting LT Terron Armstead, who was not even active. Two young backups were thrust into action: center Cameron Tom and rookie guard Will Clapp.
The OL injuries and the lack of a downfield speed target for QB Drew Brees have combined to thwart the Saints’ offense the last few weeks. Saints offensive line coach Dan Roushar will have a busy week getting this unit back into a rhythm, but it will be a tough task as the Steelers will present different looks on nearly every snap.
The Steelers come into New Orleans fighting for a playoff spot, buoyed after an emotional win over the Patriots last week. Thus far this season, every team that has beaten the Patriots has lost miserably the next week — so an emotional letdown could be a factor.
However, if there is an edge for the Steelers, it could be their defensive line, led by coach Karl Dunbar. This unit has done a much better job this season, and a principal reason is the addition of Dunbar to the staff. Dunbar will know the Saints’ OL unit is in a state of flux at the moment. If the Saints have to move Andrus Peat out to tackle this week and play with Clapp at guard, for example, we expect Dunbar to attack the rookie.
One sure way to disrupt Brees is to produce a consistent inside rush up into his face. If Clapp plays, we don’t know if he can be stout against a talented Steelers front.
The chess match between Roushar and Dunbar will be one to watch.