When New Orleans hosts the Steelers on Sunday, you’ve likely read as much about the Saints as you possibly can.
But what do you know about the Steelers?
That’s where A View From the Other Side comes in. Every Friday during the Saints' season, WWL-TV.com will ask five questions to at least one beat writer covering the Saints’ opponent that week.
Today, Scott Brown of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is kind enough to help us out. He has covered the Steelers since September of 2006. You can read his blog View from the Press Box, which is full of information about the Steelers.
WWL-TV: How has the return of Ben Roethlisberger changed or affected the Steelers offense?
SCOTT BROWN: Roethlisberger’s return has changed the entire complexion of the offense. He is a franchise quarterback who gives the Steelers a premier playmaker at the position. He makes everyone around him better as wide receiver Hines Ward will attest.
Ward, relatively quiet through the first four games of the Steelers season, has caught 12 passes for 185 yards and a pair of scores since Roethlisberger has returned from a four-game suspension.
Most significant, Roethlisberger’s return has given the Steelers balance. They had to rely heavily on running back Rashard Mendenhall in their first four games, and he saw his share of eight- and nine-man fronts.
While it hasn’t happened yet, Roethlisberger’s presence should open up more running lanes for Mendenhall.
WWL-TV: Explain the significance in Pittsburgh losing defensive end Aaron Smith. What exactly does this do to the defense?
BROWN: The loss of defensive end Aaron Smith cannot be understated. He may be the standard when it comes to 3-4 defensive ends, and he is considered by many in the Steelers organization to be as valuable as any player that the team has on defense.
The Steelers were 7-8 in the 15 games that Smith missed in 2007 and 2009, and their run defense suffered a significant drop off both seasons when he was sidelined by an injury. Smith has excelled for years at occupying multiple blockers, freeing up the Steelers’ linebackers to roam free and making tackles.
He is also eighth on the Steelers’ all-time sacks list with 44.
WWL-TV: The Steelers are 1st against the run and 24th against the pass in the latest NFL rankings. Drew Brees said that’s why rankings can be foolish to look at. The question is is the pass defense really a weak point for the defense?
BROWN: To be determined. I wouldn’t call it a weakness but I’m not sure I’d call it a strength either.
The Steelers have yet to play a quarterback the caliber of Brees so they will know a lot more about their pass defense after Sunday night’s game. Numbers can be misleading and as many yards as the Steelers have given up through the air, they lead the NFL in scoring defense.
They have allowed only four touchdown passes through six games, which shows just how good the Steelers’ red-zone defense has been but it is early. The six starting quarterbacks they have faced thus far have one Pro Bowl appearance among them.
We’ll get a better read on the Steelers’ passing defense after three consecutive games against Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and Tom Brady
WWL-TV: Did you see a change in the way James Harrison played on Sunday after the way the league publicly talked about cracking down on dangerous hits?
BROWN: I didn’t see a change.
James Harrison said they only time the stricter enforcement of the illegal helmet-to-helmet rule affected him is when he pulled up after Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown caught a short pass over the middle.
Larry Foote brought down Brown for a 5-yard gain, and the play did not have any impact on the game. Personally I think players overreacted as much as the NFL did after borderline hits like the one Harrison had on Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi.
The games last week hardly resembled flag football, and I think the NFL did a good thing in trying to rid the game of some of the needless violence that is a result of blatant headhunting.
I will say that this issue, this divide between the players and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, is not behind us. It is merely dormant for now
WWL-TV: What’s the strength of the Steelers run game this season?
BROWN: Mendenhall is having a good season though the Steelers may have to reduce his workload so he doesn’t wear down in December and January. The Steelers still don’t run the ball with enough consistency or the kind of attitude that was a hallmark of past black and gold teams.
But they look they have improved in that area from a year ago, and the offensive line has responded to first-year o-line coach Sean Kugler and a future Pro Bowler in rookie center Maurkice Pouncey.