The New York Giants have done just enough to win in recent weeks – first, coming back to defeat Washington with a last-minute bomb from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz. This past week, the Giants made Tony Romo look more like Babe Laufenberg for a half. Then, Romo more closely resembled Roger Staubach while leading Dallas to a near-miracle comeback if not for Dez Bryant’s fingers touching beyond the end line. The bottom line – the Giants know how to escape with victories. Meanwhile, the Steelers have quietly put together fairly decisive victories over middling teams – at Cincinnati, and versus Washington. Now, the two perennial playoff contenders collide in a showdown at MetLife Stadium.
Both Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger were drafted in the 2004 NFL Draft. The GIants traded to obtain Manning’s rights after the San Diego Chargers selected Eli with the #1 overall pick. Roethlisberger was taken by the Steelers with the #11 selection. These two quarterbacks, along with Philip Rivers to a lesser extent, have been joined at the hip due to being part of the 2004 QB class. In the eight seasons since joining the NFL, Roethlisberger has appeared in three Super Bowls and winning two. Manning’s Giants have gone to Super Bowls twice, winning both.
This contest is far from being only a quarterback duel. The Giants defensive line, along with the Steelers running game will have a lot to say about who wins and loses on Sunday. Both offenses can consistently move the ball while each defense has its flaws that will be exposed.
Ten Fearless Predictions
1. Each QB will carve up the opposing defense. Eli will frequently resort to the deep passing game, while Big Ben will employ a more methodical approach to moving the ball down the field.
2. Pittsburgh’s pass blocking will be surprisingly effective against the Giants’ stout D-line of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Chris Canty, and Linval Joseph. Maurkice Pouncey returned from injury last week and Mike Adams has looked at home as a starter at right tackle (very unlike his preseason performance).
3. Ahmad Bradshaw’s tenacious style of running will gash Pittsburgh’s front seven. As the Steeler stalwarts (Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel, among others) on the D-line have aged, their gap responsibility has gone from near perfection to mediocre.
4. Pittsburgh’s return game will either score or set up a short field for an easy offensive touchdown. Penalties have hindered the big play capability of Antonio Brown and Chris Rainey. Maybe once, the yellow flags will stay in the zebras’ pockets…if Pittsburgh can avoid unnecessarily holding or making illegal blocks.
5. New York will receive a boast early on from its fans in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. The emotion won’t last the entire game, but Pittsburgh may need to weather an early storm of its own to remain in the game.
6. Neither team will register more than two sacks. Pittsburgh’s pass rushers have been virtually nonexistent in 2012. This is somewhat related due to injury with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley still not 100%, however Dick Lebeau may throw in some new wrinkles this week to confuse a seasoned QB like Manning. New York’s front four rarely has difficulty in zeroing in on the opposing signal-caller. But, Pittsburgh’s offensive line play has significantly improved in recent weeks and Todd Haley’s quick passing game is designed to keep #7 healthy.
7. The key to the game from a Pittsburgh perspective is limiting Victor Cruz’s big plays. Hakeem Nicks has not yet been healthy in 2012. If Cruz can be kept in check, Manning will be forced to play “small ball” by relying on passing horizontally to guys like Martellus Bennett instead of airing it out downfield.
8. All offensive categories will be fairly close by game’s end. Both passing games should do well against opposing secondaries, both running games are adequate but not spectacular. As always, the difference will be turnovers…
9. Eli Manning has become a legend in New York due to his “clutch” performances in Super Bowls. But, speaking of turnovers, Manning has been known to throw a pick or two. One pick might be all the difference in this game, and it will be.
10. Steelers 27, Giants 23. I really expected to pick New York to win this game, but I see Pittsburgh as a team on the rise trying to build towards divisional title relevance. A loss isn’t the end of the world for either team, but Pittsburgh wants it more this week.
About the Author
Written by Rob Stroup
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, so I have followed the Pittsburgh sports teams (Steelers, Penguins, Pirates) since the womb. It has become a tradition to make the yearly trek to a Steelers and Penguins game each year despite the distance. I hope to make writing a profession because I thoroughly enjoy attempting to paint a picture with words.