- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The latest scandal involving the New Orleans Saints might have affected two AFC North teams, especially the Pittsburgh Steelers. ESPN's Outside the Lines is reporting that Saints general manager Mickey Loomis had the ability to eavesdrop on opposing coaches during games at the Superdome for most of the 2002 season, as well as all of the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
On Oct. 6, 2002, the Steelers lost in New Orleans, 32-29. Pittsburgh cut the margin to three points with 1:26 left, but the Saints recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock. The Steelers allowed the Saints to score on seven of their first eight drives, and quarterback Tommy Maddox was sacked three times. If Pittsburgh had won that game, the Steelers would've finished 11-4-1, earned the top seed in the AFC and received home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Instead, they were a third seed and had to play a divisional round game at Tennessee where they lost.
The Cleveland Browns didn't have the same trouble when they won in New Orleans, 24-15, on Nov. 24, 2002. The Saints struggled on offense because running back Deuce McAllister was out the entire game with a sprained right ankle. The Browns improved to 6-5 in their last playoff season on the strength of William Green's 114 yards rushing and one touchdown.
The Browns were one of four teams to beat the Saints at the Superdome during the 2002 season.
The AFC North played the Saints and the rest of the NFC South in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 seasons.