Tuesday, 02 November 2010 15:21

New Orleans Saints: Steelers At Home; Pierre Thomas, Brett Favre, NFL All Stars

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staton1 Five "Saints fans" left the Superdome unhappy on Sunday night.

You see, the five play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but were Saints fans growing up in Louisiana. New Orleans is home to them. Always will be, spiritually.

New Orleans is more than a town of their upbringing and their families.  This is a way of life. This is a life ravaged by Katrina and later an oil spill, turned right-side up and rebuilt anew. It's their life.

Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor intercepted a Drew Brees pass on Sunday and has played in two Super Bowls. Steelers defensive coordinator Jim LeBeau rates Taylor as the hardest tackling comeback in the NFL. He was born in Gretna and graduated from Abramson before going on to Louisiana-Lafayette.

"Sunday night was the first time I ever started a game in the Superdome," said Steelers safety Ryan Clark, of Marrero. His church was featured in an NBC segment during Sunday's broadcast. He first played in the Superdome as a 10-year-old quarterback (safety in a youth league game) and came back as a New York Giant in 2003.

Clark saw his home and his parents' home torn down by Katrina; he moved, but they rebuilt his folks' place. Then, a year before Super Bowl XLIII, a lighting strike ignited a fire that burned down his parents' house. They rebuilt once again.

"It was good to get home again," said Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace, who hails from Algiers, close to cornerback Keenan Lewis' home. Wallace played at Ole Miss.

"Superdome is my home”, said Steelers running back Mewelde Moore, halfback from Baton Rouge and Tulane.  He carried twice on Sunday and gained 19 yards.

"Tulane, that's where all our home games were. Those locker rooms, I pretty much dressed in them all."

Clark of LSU just bought a house in his hometown, envisioning the day when his three children leave the nest and he becomes another middle-aged LSU grad tailgating at his alma mater 80 miles away. Second-year players like Wallace and Lewis return to New Orleans for the offseasons  “work out together so often I'm tired of seeing him," said Lewis.

Clark bought 30 tickets for the game, the same as Wallace. Lewis growled about his number of ticket requests (20).

Attending Tulane, Moore spent every home game in the Superdome. Lewis and Wallace cannot erase memories of a state 4-A high school championship game in the Dome. Their O. Perry Walker High fell to John Curtis 16-14 as juniors. "We lost the biggest game of our high-school careers," said Lewis.

Each of these Steelers followed the Saints when they were known as the Aints-- infamous for fans with bags on their heads.

The NFL in New Orleans when they were youngsters meant no playoffs until the franchise turned 21, meant losing every one of the first four playoff games, meant falling somewhere along the postseason way all seven times the Saints somehow made it between 1967 and 2008, The came last season.

When these Steelers watched the Super Bowl last February, they couldn't help that it caused their cell phones to buzz, warmed their hearts, and encouraged their community. It was almost the next best things to winning the game themselves.

"To see the excitement the Saints brought to the city was something," said Clark. "My mom was texting me -- and she's clearly a Steelers fan. it's uplifting for a city that's been through so much."

"Perfect timing," said Moore. "That's all you hear in New Orleans. If definitely lifted the spirits of the people of Louisiana.. It's a good thing."

SOME HITHER, OTHERS YON: Without a contract, Pierre Thomas's days  in New Orleans might be numbered, barring him suddenly getting healthy and having a big second half of the season...Shaw O'Neal posed silently for photographers in Harvard Square in Boston, not speaking to fans because "I'm a statue." Analysts who have watched him play lately, didn't argue...

Pro Bowl fan balloting is under way at NFL.com, a good month earlier than it should be. Handicapping the most likely Saints all-stars at this point: 1) Drew Brees. 2) Marques Ccolston, 3) Jon Vilma. 4) Will Smith. 5) Jabari Evans. The Jets at 5-2 and Giants at 5-2 have their fans dreaming of an all-New York Super Bowl, even as the rest of us dread the possibility. Times in those franchise's 50 shared years that both have won 10-plus games in the same season: two, in 1985 and '86...

I am purposely understating references to Brett Favre's record 292-game starting streak (316 counting playoffs) will end on Sunday because Brett always seems to play. He could be in a full body cast or in ICU with bullet wounds and he would be a game-time decision. But just in case, fathom this: The last time Brett didn't start, Sept. 20, 1992, LA had two NFL teams and the president was George Bush. The first one...

Sharp Defense:  Darren Sharper, who turns 35 on Wednesday, came up with a big play when he caught a fumble in the air after linebacker Marvin Mitchell crashed into tight end Heath Miller in the fourth quarter.

FROM TOM Cowlishaw, Dallas Morning News, "Midseason coaching changes don't do much good in the NFL. The last time a team went to the Super Bowl after an in-season change was, well, never. That doesn't mean Wade Phillips should work a day longer after Sunday's humiliating 35-17  loss to Jacksonville at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys (1-6) are tied with Carolina for the worst record in the NFC. Vince Lombardi brought down from the Broadway stage of from the dead could help this team go to the playoffs...Fans were wearing paper bags over their heads Sunday and one held up a sign that read "Hell-O- Ween."...

Must Win

"Talk about must wins, you can put this one in that category," said Sharper.

Garrett Hartley kicked field goals of 23 and 25 yards.

The Steelers had a first down on the Saints six-inch line and had to settle for a field goal.

Saints coach Sean Payton said the goal-line stand was worth four points.

"They won the game in the line of scrimmage," said Tomlin.

by Ed Staton

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