PITTSBURGH, NOV. 29 -- The New Orleans Saints' defense set up two scores in the fourth quarter then twice held the line today to assure the team's first winning season since it entered the NFL 21 years ago.

"This is the most incredible win we've ever had," linebacker Pat Swilling said.

Bobby Hebert's 19-yard pass to Eric Martin in the fourth quarter provided the winning points in the 20-16 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it was the defense that got him the ball.

The Saints trailed at the half, 14-3, then Rueben Mayes made it 14-10 with a five-yard run in the third period.

The Saints' defense had already forced a fumble and blocked a punt but, then, in the fourth quarter, forced the fumble that set up Hebert's scoring pass. After that, the Saints intercepted one of Mark Malone's passes to set up Morten Andersen's second field goal of the game.

Malone then moved the Steelers (6-5) to a first down at the Saints 4. After Merril Hoge was held to a yard on second and goal from the 2, Malone threw incomplete. Then linebacker Sam Mills stopped fullback Frank Pollard just short of the goal line on a sweep.

"We knew exactly what play they were going to run," linebacker Rickey Jackson said. "We'd seen it on film. They ran the same play a couple of weeks ago."

The Saints soon had to give up the ball, but, rather than risk a blocked punt, had punter Brian Hansen run out of the end zone for a safety with 1:05 to play.

Malone then drove the Steelers to first down at the 3. But Joe Kohlbrand sacked him for seven yards, then Dave Waymer intercepted his last-play pass.

The Steelers had lost a chance for one more play by using a timeout with 2:13 left because only 10 men had taken the field after a TV timeout.

By winning, the Saints (8-3) increased their streak to five -- four on the road -- and started a mini-Mardi Gras back home, where 3,000 fans awaited the team's plane. One fan, on crutches, said: "It would take more than this to keep me at home. This sure runs a close second to the Mardi Gras."

Another sign proclaimed: "Bag Heads No More."

One elderly man carrying a sign lettered "Thank God," said: "I can't give you my name. My wife's out of town and thinks I'm home tonight. But I just couldn't miss this. I've been waiting for 20 years." New Orleans 3 0 7 10 20 Pittsburgh 0 14 0 2 16

First Quarter

NO -- FG Andersen 25, 12:18 Second Quarter

P -- Woodruff 33 interception return (Anderson kick), 2:30

P -- Abercrombie 5 run (Anderson kick), 14:14 Third Quarter

NO -- Mayes 5 run (Andersen kick), 6:53 Fourth Quarter

NO -- Martin 19 pass from Hebert (Andersen kick), 6:44

NO -- FG Andersen 32, 8:50

P -- Safety, Hansen ran through end zone, 13:55

A -- 47,896

Saints Steelers First downs 15 19 Rushes-yards 38-114 32-112 Passing yards 144 172 Return yards 98 43 Passing 14-24-1 16-31-3 Sacked-yards lost 2-10 4-41 Punts-average 6-42 6-38 Fumbles-lost 4-1 5-3 Penalties-yards 7-64 4-38 Time of possession 30:58

RUSHING -- New Orleans: Mayes 22-73, Hilliard 11-39, Word 2-5, Hebert 2-0, Hansen 1-minus 3. Pittsburgh: Po

PASSING -- New Orleans: Hebert 14-23-1, 154 yards, Wilson 0-1-0, 0. Pittsburgh: Malone 16-31-3, 213.

RECEIVING -- New Orleans: Jones 5-65, Martin 3-43, Mayes 2-1, Brenner 1-20, Hill 1-13, Word 1-7, Hilliard 1

MISSED FIELD GOALS -- New Orleans: Andersen 53, 50.