The New Orleans Saints did not turn in an overwhelming offensive performance vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third game of the preseason Friday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome but there were several positives in the 27-14 loss.
Running back C.J. Spiller looked like he had the burst and shiftiness that was missing last season following knee surgery. Wide receiver Willie Snead IV made a spectacular catch for a 17-yard touchdown from Drew Brees. And rookie Tommylee Lewis made another outstanding play, this time a 31-yard touchdown reception from Garrett Grayson.
The Saints offense, after a slow start, got in gear thanks to the defense.
Cornerback Delvin Breaux forced a Le'Veon Bell fumble and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe recovered it in the second quarter. Brees took over, leading the Saints on a 78-yard drive that was capped by an amazing 17-yard touchdown catch by Snead. The ball was knocked out of Snead's hands with a hard hit but he maintained concentration and grabbed as it came back to him.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a strong first half for Pittsburgh (1-2), completing 12 of 17 passes for 148 yards with two touchdown passes (57 yards to Antonio Brown and five yards to Jesse James). Landry Jones added an 8-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates late in the second quarter and the Steelers added two field goals to complete their scoring.
Brees was pulled late in the second quarter after completing 9 of 12 passes for 78 yards. Snead was his top target with four catches for 58 yards while Spiller had four carries for 20 yards. Luke McCown played the rest of the second quarter and finished 4 of 8 for 51 yards.
Grayson played the entire second half and was 14 for 22 for 128 yards with one touchdown, the 31-yard connection to Lewis in the third quarter, and two interceptions.
Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and left tackle Terron Armstead left the game in the first half. Running back Daniel Lasco had to leave the game in the fourth quarter after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit. Cornerback Jimmy Pruitt also left the game.
The Saints (0-3) will play host to the Baltimore Ravens at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Thursday, Sept. 1 to end the preseason. The final 53-man roster has to be set on Sept. 3 and the Saints will host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, Sept. 11 in the regular-season opener.