(SportsNetwork.com) - Will the real Ben Roethlisberger please stand up?
Or, at least throw a half-dozen or so touchdown passes so we'll know it's you?
The Pittsburgh QB threw for a preposterous 12 TDs over a two-game home stretch - against Indianapolis and Baltimore - in Weeks 8 and 9, then took to the road for games against suspect opponents (the New York Jets and Tennessee) against whom it appeared that double-digits were a likelihood.
Instead, the Steelers hit the offensive skids against the Jets and Titans, splitting the two games in the standings while Roethlisberger was sacked seven times, threw three interceptions and had just two plays that generated 25 or more yards.
Pittsburgh was off last week for its bye and returns home for a Week 13 game with New Orleans, trailing first-place Cincinnati by a half-game in the AFC North.
"All we have to focus on is the stadium that we're in because we're in the thick of that," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "If we do what we need to do on a week-in and week-out basis in terms of our business in our stadium, then it's not going to be required that we look around. We play some significant people moving forward. New Orleans being the most significant because that's who we play this week."
In five games at Heinz Field, Roethlisberger has a 130.5 passer rating, 18 touchdowns and just five interceptions, and he's generated 19 plays of 25 yards or more - best in the NFL. That equals the total that Sunday's passing opponent, Drew Brees, has managed in all 11 games this season.
"We appreciate it. We don't take it for granted," Tomlin said. "It's been really good. But it's not unlike him. He is capable of heating up and going for these stretches and being a significant reason why we are successful, not only offensively but as a football team."
Inconveniently for the Saints, their defense is suddenly dinged-up.
Nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley tore a quad muscle in last week's home loss to Baltimore, a game in which the Ravens rushed for 215 yards. The last three New Orleans opponents have averaged 5.45 yards per carry, which could mean good things for Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell, who'll presumably get the bulk of the ball-carrying after LeGarrette Blount was released following the Tennessee game.
Bell ran for 204 yards against the Titans.
Additionally, quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco have completed better than 70 percent of their passes and averaged more than 10 yards per attempt against New Orleans in the last two weeks, while throwing for four touchdowns and 453 yards.
The Saints have three safeties on injured reserve and will be facing a Roethlisberger receiving corps that includes Antonio Brown, who leads the NFL with 88 catches, and Lance Moore, who played with New Orleans from 2006 to 2013.
"Every game that we come out, it is something new," Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis said. "Sometimes we have problems with the pass. Sometimes we have problems with the run. Sometimes we have a problem with both. We have to fix everything."
When it comes to offense, New Orleans is third in the league on the road with an average of 418 yards per game, though it's been hurt by 11 road turnovers and has won just once in five tries.
Brees and the Saints will face a Steelers defense buffeted by the possible returns of cornerback Ike Taylor, safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker Ryan Shazier. Taylor has been out since Week 3 with a broken forearm, Polamalu missed two games with a sprained knee and Shazier last played in Week 9 before suffering an ankle injury.
New Orleans has the opposite record as Pittsburgh's at 4-7, but shares first place in a dreadful NFC South with Atlanta. The NFC South is the first division to have all three of its teams three or more games below .500, while the Steelers and the rest of the AFC North make up the only division in which all teams are three or more games above .500.
The South is 1-10-1 in 11 games against the North this season, with the lone victory coming from 2-9 Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh in Week 4. The Saints lost three straight at home to fall to 4-7.
"Obviously, our margin for error is not good enough to win close games," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. "We have to be able to play better and coach better. Most importantly, we have to make sure we have thick enough skin and be able to have the mental and physical toughness to bounce back and play (at Pittsburgh), because we are playing, obviously, an important game."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Steelers have allowed TDs from tight ends in four consecutive games, and those scores came from the less-than-All-Pro likes of Dwayne Allen, Crockett Gilmore, Jace Amaro and Chase Coffman.
They step up the opposition dramatically against the Saints' Jimmy Graham, who's got 65 receptions for 670 yards and nine touchdowns in 11 games. To only say "Advantage New Orleans" seems insufficient.
Painting Heinz Field Brown
The aforementioned Brown has certainly established himself among the top pass- catching threats in the NFL over the last two seasons, and keeping him in check this week will be a huge way that the Saints can keep Sunday from turning into a video game shootout. Lewis, himself a former Steeler, will attempt to disrupt his athletic counterpart with a decided aim at physicality along the line of scrimmage.
If you're of the betting persuasion, the over seems like a formality here. Brees and Roethlisberger combine for a matchup of premier NFL quarterbacks and offensive names like Brown, Graham and Bell certainly indicate that stops will be at a premium. The team that emerges with the fewest mistakes is likely to have the best time of it, and the Saints' road performance thus far indicates it won't be them.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Steelers 30, Saints 21