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Steelers-Saints Pregame Primer: Key to Win, Picks, Bold Prediction and More

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Steelers WR George Pickens

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to get their 2022 season turned around, as they come out of their bye week well-rested and recovered to face a New Orleans Saints team that has been struggling just as much as they have been.

Gameday: Steelers at Saints,1 p.m.

KEY TO VICTORY

The Philadelphia Eagles probably have the best defensive front of any team the Steelers have faced so far this season, with old friend Javon Hargrave joined by Fletcher Cox, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, new addition Robert Quinn and first-round draft pick Jordan Davis. If the Steelers are going to be able to upset the Eagles, protecting Kenny Pickett and finding openings in the running game will be absolutely vital for the Steelers.

The Eagles also lead the NFL with 12 takeaways, and so much of that comes from their ability to pressure on quarterbacks. Pickett will have to be smarter with the football than he has been, with seven interceptions in four games.

BOLD PREDICTION: KENNY KEEPS IT

Kenny Pickett did not have a great first half of his rookie season, but by far the No. 1 flaw to his game so far has been his propensity to turn the ball over. In basically four full games, Pickett has thrown eight interceptions and lost one fumble.

While the circumstance around several of them don’t involve all the blame landing on Pickett, the end result is a turnover total that is the very biggest factor in Pickett’s performance being below the line so far.

After a bye week of self-scouting and improvement-seeking, during which the importance of winning the turnover battle was assuredly stressed upon the Pittsburgh rookie signal caller, Pickett will face a Saints defense that is 31st in takeaways and has just two interceptions on the season. That’s a good place for Pickett to start taking better care of the football.

OVERLOOKED MATCHUP: GEORGE PICKENS vs ALONTAE TAYLOR

With Marshon Lattimore ruled out, Saints third-round rookie Alontae Taylor will get the start at outside cornerback, and he’ll be facing a familiar foe in Steelers rookie George Pickens. The two locked up twice while playing in the SEC, in 2019 and 2020. In the 2020 game, Taylor helped hold Pickens to two catches for 14 yards, his lowest output of the season. But Pickens did draw one defensive pass interference penalty on Taylor.

PREDICTION

The Saints looked like a team that didn’t even want to be in the building against the Baltimore Ravens last week. Now they’re playing on a short week, without start linebacker Pete Werner, it’s going to be freezing cold in Pittsburgh, and T.J. Watt is back to personally torture Andy Dalton some more.

The Ravens try their hardest to play every game to within a Justin Tucker field goal, and the Saints weren’t even interested in getting within 10 points.

Chris Olave is a talented rookie and Alvin Kamara is special, but they are probably the only players on this entire Saints squad that should scare anyone.

The Steelers getting Watt back on defense means so much, and that, combined with a bye-week reset for Pickett, should be enough to lead the Steelers to a fairly comfortable victory. Pittsburgh 24, New Orleans 13.

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Pittsburgh +1.5 (-118)

Under 39.5 (-114)

Jaylen Warren over 24.5 rushing yards (-113)

Bonus Pick: Pat Freiermuth anytime touchdown (+330)

Last week: 0-3: Steelers +11.5, Under 42.5, Miles Sanders under 68.5

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