At New Orleans
4:15 p.m. ET
Key Coaching Decision #1: (NO ball, score tied 0-0 / first-and-10, PIT 46 / 10:35 Q1)
• After the Saints defense stopped the Steelers on the first possession of the game, the Saints offense took the field and proceeded to move the ball effortlessly. Inexplicably, Saints head coach Sean Payton installed backup quarterback Taysom Hill into the game and had him throw a deep pass to just-activated wide receiver Ted Ginn. The ball was intercepted, and a promising start for the Saints was terminated. We thought this play was too cute, as Saints starting quarterback Drew Brees started the series throwing the ball well and in rhythm.
Key Coaching Decision #1: (PIT ball, leading 28-24 / fourth-and-5, PIT 42 / 4:11 Q4)
• Up to this point, the Steelers defense had turned stout and was doing a good job of stuffing the Saints after the Saints had taken a 24-14 lead. In this situation, we felt the prudent decision was to punt — pin the Saints back deep in their own territory and let the Steelers defense attempt to seal the game. After all, the Steelers defense had forced the Saints off the field in three consecutive possessions. Instead, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin opted for a fake punt call that was stuffed. The Saints took over on a short field and proceeded to march in for the go-ahead touchdown. This single decision may have cost the Steelers their postseason playoff hopes. In our view, it was not defensible under any circumstance.
• The return of Saints wide receiver Ted Ginn from the injured reserve list is significant. He opens up the entire field again for the Saints, and in this game, came up with a clutch third-and-20 reception.
• We don’t know what it is about this particular Steelers team, but in clutch situations, its very best players have not performed well under pressure this year. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown critical interceptions, kicker Chris Boswell has missed important kicks, and in this game, usually dependable wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster fumbled the ball away on a potential game-tying or game-winning drive.