Their matchup on Sunday will be one of the weekend’s most competitive games. Both teams carry playoff expectations, and both know what it takes to knock off a fellow contender.
This is going to be a good one, folks. Let’s preview the matchup from top to bottom.
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
When: Sunday, November 4 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Radio: Steelers Radio, WFAN Fan 660 (Giants)
Betting Line: Giants (-3), Over/Under 47.5, according to covers.com
Pittsburgh Injury Report (via USA Today)
S Ryan Clark—Concussion—Questionable
LB Brandon Johnson—Hamstring—Questionable
DT Alameda Ta'Amu—Suspension—Questionable
RB Rashard Mendenhall—Achilles—Questionable
C Maurkice Pouncey—Leg—Questionable
RB Isaac Redman—Knee—Questionable
T Marcus Gilbert—Ankle—Out Indefinitely
S Troy Polamalu—Calf—Out
G David DeCastro—Knee—Out
LB Sean Spence—Knee—Out
TE David Johnson—Knee—Out
NY Giants Injury Report (via USA Today)
RB Ahmad Bradshaw—Foot—Probable
WR Victor Cruz—Calf—Probable
DT Rocky Bernard—Quadricep—Probable
LB Chase Blackburn—Hamstring—Questionable
S Antrel Rolle—Head—Questionable
LB Jacquian Williams—Knee—Questionable
S Kenny Phillips—Knee—Questionable
S Will Hill—Suspension—Out
RB Da'Rel Scott—Knee—Injured Reserve
T Brandon Mosley—Ankle—Injured Reserve
DT Shaun Rogers—Leg—Injured Reserve
DB Terrell Thomas—Knee—Injured Reserve
What's at Stake?
The Giants aren’t in any danger of falling out of first place in the NFC East, but Pittsburgh can maintain its pace in the AFC North.
These teams are in two different positions right now. New York is red hot—taking advantage of a very inconsistent division while it’s at it. Pittsburgh is playing much better as of late and could catch Baltimore should the Ravens falter against the Browns on Sunday.
Either way, these are two proud franchises. Expect both teams to bring it on Sunday, as two playoff contenders usually do.
Must Start: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Roethlisberger is playing extremely well this season, and he should have no trouble handling New York’s secondary.
Stevie Brown’s five interceptions could give Big Ben problems, but don’t expect it to make a difference. New York definitely has its strengths, but its 26th-ranked pass defense isn’t one of them.
Roethlisberger has plenty of weapons to work with, and he’s not turning the ball over this year. Expect the normal rash of screen passes, but Mike Wallace should be able to get free for a deep ball or two as well.
Expect a big day from Pittsburgh’s passing attack whether it wins or loses.
Sit 'Em: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
Bradshaw is listed on the injury report, but he’d be a shaky play even if he weren’t. Putting him against the Steelers’ ninth-ranked run defense is risky. Pittsburgh pins its ears back, and it will force Manning to win the game through the air.
The Giants have enjoyed a much-improved ground game this season, but this isn’t a week to go with it, fantasy owners. Sitting Bradshaw is necessary unless you have no other options due to bye-week nightmares.
Pittsburgh rarely struggles to stop the run, and this year is no different. Look for Manning to throw the ball 30 to 40 times, taking the pressure off of Bradshaw’s ailing body.
Sleeper: Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Three weeks ago, calling Dwyer anything but a bum would have been crazy. Now, with two straight 100-plus-yard games under his belt, he’s an interesting play should he be able to go. Here is the latest from Chris Adamski of CBS Sports:
Dwyer has 229 rushing yards and has had consecutive 100-yard games -- the first time that's happened since Willie Parker in 2008. But he emerged from Sunday's 27-12 victory against Washington with a right quad strain.
'He is tentatively scheduled not to practice [Wednesday],' Tomlin said. 'He is being evaluated. Hopefully, Thursday will be a practice day for him.'
The Giants allow 113 rushing yards per game. It’s not like he’s facing a run-defending juggernaut. Pittsburgh will try to offset the Giants’ pass rush by giving him carries early, allowing him to wear down the Giants defensive line with his bulky frame.
This bodes well for fantasy owners. If you have him stashed on your bench normally, this might be a good week to start him. He’s proved himself capable of carrying a heavy workload in the past two weeks, and the Giants are vulnerable in this area.
What They Are Saying
Ben Roethlisberger had this to say to ESPN New York’s Kieran Darcy concerning the Giants defense:
They've got a crazy amount of turnovers, interceptions. I think that (credit) usually goes to the back end, the guys intercepting it, the DBs and stuff. But I think you have to give a lot of credit, and we're gonna give a lot of attention to, the front four -- and really the front six or seven that they rotate in and linebackers -- because they're the ones that create a lot of those turnovers with pressure on the quarterback.
In light of Hurricane Sandy, Bloomberg News’ Eben Novy-Williams reports that “New Jersey Transit may not run the train that brings 10,000 people to MetLife Stadium when the New York Giants host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 4 as it continues to assess damage from Hurricane Sandy.”
The game is still on, but attendance could be affected. Thankfully, things are not any worse than they already are.
Steelers Player to Watch: Will Allen, S
With Ryan Clark’s status in question and Troy Polamalu out, the Steelers need someone to step up at safety.
Enter veteran Will Allen. He’s played well so far this season, and he will be charged with quarterbacking the defensive backfield against Victor Cruz and Co.
Pittsburgh’s pass defense hasn’t taken a step back, even without Polamalu, but that could change at any time. New York has the weapons and the quarterback to make that change happen.
Allen isn’t ever going to be Polamalu, but he’s a smart player who plays sound in run support and pass coverage.
Giants Player to Watch: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE
Pierre-Paul is a physical specimen, and he can single-handedly demolish an offensive line. With 5.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a defensive touchdown, the dynamic defensive end has made his mark already this season.
If you’re looking for someone who can hit Ben Roethlisberger and actually bring him down, this is your guy. He’s strong enough, fast enough and mean enough to do the job.
The Giants need a defensive difference-maker, and this is the guy. Pressuring Big Ben will play a major role in determining the outcome of this one.
Key Matchup: Eli Manning vs. Steelers Pass Defense
The Steelers are No. 2 in the NFL at stopping the pass, but Manning won’t be easy to slow down. He has a lot of weapons to work with on the outside, making his arm even more dangerous.
Pittsburgh only has 12 sacks this season. It’s not the Steelers’ normally dynamic pass rush, but teams must always be wary when Dick LeBeau is at the controls.
Manning has over 2,300 yards and 12 touchdowns this year, leading the league’s sixth-ranked passing attack. With Bradshaw hobbled, his role must be even bigger on Sunday.
The Steelers don’t have elite corners, but their physicality will challenge New York’s wideouts.
Pittsburgh has enough to get it done in this one, but it’s going to be a nail-biter. Because of the Giants’ issues defensively, Roethlisberger will turn in a big day, and Dwyer could as well.
Expect Manning to struggle against the Steelers’ pass defense, allowing them to pin their ears back and attack.
Coming off two straight wins, the Steelers finally feel like themselves again. Beating the 6-2 Giants will take them one step further.
Pittsburgh 24, New York 20