The Steelers welcomed troubled quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back as the starter Saturday night, while the Giants' Eli Manning watched from the sidelines, his hat covering the twelve stitches he received after suffering a head gash against the Jets.
Jim Sorgi also sat out the game, leaving second-year quarterback Rhett Bomar a rare chance to play a full game and prove his worth.
Offense: Passing: 167 yards
Rushing: 129 yards
Total: 280 yards, 17 points scored
Bomar, a fifth round pick, got a once in a lifetime chance to start an entire game for the Giants and earn his roster spot.
He went 13-for-26, for 167 yards and an interception. He posted a QB rating of 54.5.
Bomar proved two things: he can take hits and he knows when to run with the football. Besides those two positives, his play left a lot to be desired.
Bomar, even when not under pressure, missed plenty of wide open receivers. He had Tim Brown, the rookie out of Rutgers, open on a deep route but threw the ball too far outside, forcing Brown out of bounds. He also missed an open Mario Manningham on a play that ended with a pick. To his credit, he was able to force some balls into tight coverage.
Which Group Performed the Best?
I'll cut him a break, because of his inexperience.
Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs did not start against the Steelers. The former missed a meeting, and the latter was out with a sore neck. Danny Ware started in the their place.
Ware had four attempts for 10 yards. He technically was the starter, but Bradshaw and Andre Brown received the bulk of the carries.
Bradshaw rushed for 28 yards while averaging 4.7 yards-per-carry, with one touchdown. Personally, I loved what I saw from him. The seventh-round pick showed an impressive combination of power, quickness, and speed. He ran over strong saftey Troy Polamalu, and showed the ability to bounce to the outside and dance in the backfield without losing yards. I maintain my opinion that Bradshaw is one of the more underrated players on the Giants.
Brown also looked good, posting 67 yards, a 4.7 YPC average and one touchdown in his second NFL game. He may have been slowed a bit by his achilles tear, but his power was undeniable. He consistently pushed the pile and ran through tackles. Brown was a steal in the fourth round, and hopefully he will continue his good play into the regular season.
It's difficult to judge the play of the receivers because of Bomar's below-average performance. However, Steve Smith showed us why he is a Pro-Bowl caliber receiver with a shockingly impressive deep catch over Bryant McFadden. Smith finished with tqo receptions for 53 yards.
Up-and-Comer Hakeem Nick was ejected from the game due to a fight with Steelers' CB Ike Taylor in the first quarter, so we didn't see much of him.
Victor Cruz, the preseason Week One star, posted two receptions for 30 yards. He again showed good ability to get yards after the catch. The numbers don't look great, but Bomar had him open several times and gave Cruz a number of bad passes.
Mario Manningham also displayed his usual dance steps after the catch, though Bomar overthrew him a couple times, with one pass resulting with a pick. Still, I'd like to see more consistent hands from Manningham, who was tied for first in dropped passes in 2009.
Offensive Line Play:
This was a weakness of the Giants' offense last night. The line was missing All-Pro's Shaun O'Hara and Chris Snee. 2009 Pro-Browl LT David Diehl looked completely out of sync with the rest of the line, which is surprising because he was back at his LG position, where he is usually more comfortable.
Though the numbers may tell a different story, the offensive line did not open up holes in the run game. Bradshaw and Brown had most of their yards off of eluded tackles, dragging defenders, and bouncing to the outside.
Bomar was sacked twice, and he also took a number of shots on passing plays.
LT Will Beatty was a bright spot, he let up almost no pressure.
Defense: Passing Yards Allowed: 253
Rushing Yards Allowed: 161
Total: 412 Yards Allowed, 24 Points Allowed
Defensive Line Play:
The Giants defensive line disappointed in 2009, when it was projected to be one of the league's best. However, they have yet to show a reason why they won't be able to bounce back in 2010.
The interior of the line played well. Chris Canty did a good job plugging up holes, while Barry Cofield also looked pretty good. The line in particular had a great goal line stand at the end of the first half. They plugged up all the running lanes and drove their way into the backfield.
Rookie DT Linval Joseph did disappoint me on one play, when he was blown out his gap as Steeler's FB Dwayne Wright ran for a big gain. Besides that defensive lapse, his play was solid.
DE's Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora looked like they were both back to their elite-player forms. Tuck had a great stop in the backfield on Antwaan Randle El on a reverse, and all night he was flying around making plays. Umenyiora finally looked explosive again, and had a couple of backfield stops. My only criticism of this unit is that I would've like more pressure on the Steeler's quarterback trio.
Also, first round pick Jason Pierre-Paul missed an easy sack. He is definitely raw, but I like his athleticism.
Saturday night saw Keith Bulluck's first action in Giant blue, as he made two tackles in his six plays on the field last night.
Veteran Michael Boley showed consistent run defense, but he is weak in coverage. On one play in particular he was adequately covering Heath Miller, but was looked off by Roethlisberger who then hit Miller for a first down.
I am still worried that second year LB Clint Sintim is a fish out of water in the 4-3. He was an exceptional 3-4 OLB for Virginia, but his transition to 4-3 OLB has yet to be complete.
Sixth-round draft pick Adrian Tracy made two very good plays in the backfield for the Giants. However, he also missed a tackle on a first down run. Still, Tracy is a project, and for a late round pick he didn't look bad at all last night.
CB Corey Webster may have had the biggest play of the secondary with an interception on a pass intended for Mike Wallace, but Terrell Thomas definitely had the best performance. Thomas, who quietly had a very good 2009 season, consistently defended passes from Roethlisberger to Hines Ward.
The Giants biggest free agent addition, Antrell Rolle, once again played very well. He made a great run stop in the backfield and looked solid in coverage. His U Miami counterpart, Kenny Phillips, finally saw some live action last night, though he only got six snaps.
S Deon Grant continues to display his veteran instincts. He was flying around the field last night, though he seems to be inconsistent at times when it comes to making tackles.
CB Aaron Ross played well, but he disappointed me on one play in particular, when he allowed a first down completion to Randle El on third and fourteen. Ross kept Randle El in front of him, as one should during a long pass play. However, he didn't seem to know where the sticks were as he allowed the first down reception and immediately tackled Randle El.
The Giants' starters impressed me last night. However, the backups seemed confused and out of position. CB Bruce Johnson got burned for a touchdown by Wallace on a play where he seemed to be expecting safety help, though he got none. It's unclear whether he was at fault or if he was supposed to get help over the top. While the backups were on the field, Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich constantly found holes in the secondary.
I feel I have to give two separate grades here, one for the starters and one for the backups.
Starters Grade: B+
Backups Grade: C
Brown looked better running the football than he did returning it. His speed seemed hampered by his recent Achilles tear (as it should be).
Ross had a big 45-yard punt return, and may be a good option to replace the injured Domenik Hixon as the Giants' return man.
Cruz did not impress as a punt returner. On his first attempt, he had room to run but he instead called for a fair catch. On his second attempt, he seemed to try and make up for his previous mistake by fielding a ball inside the 10 yard-line. He tried to make a move before he had the ball, muffed the punt, and the ball rolled out at the Giants' one yard line.
I wish Jeff Feagles had stayed out of retirement for just one more year. Rookie punter Matt Dodge has a big leg, but his line drives are killing the Giants' field position. He may have potential, but he is experiencing the growing pains one should expect from a rookie.
K Lawrence Tynes looked solid last night. He was 1/1 on field goals, making a 42 yard attempt. He was 2/2 on extra points.
Grade: A (nothing to complain about, though that's probably because Tynes wasn't tested very much)
The Giants' kick and punt coverage was average. They allowed 25 yards per return on kickoffs and 8 yards per return on punts. I would like to see the first man make the tackle more often, as it seemed to take several players to make the tackle on each return.
I liked what I saw from the Giants' starters last night. Though they allowed over 400 yards, the first-string defense was very promising. The backups made me a bit nervous, as the second half saw the defense get picked apart by the Steeler's offense.
I can't make many judgements on the passing game, Bomar showed me exactly what I expected from a third-string on-the-bubble quarterback. The run game looked good, however.