Head to head: Steelers LT Max Starks vs. Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul

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Max Starks has never faced defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, but he knows what it was like to face Michael Strahan and some of the other members of the New York Giants defensive line.

And he knows that how well the Steelers fare against the Giants today in East Rutherford, N.J., will depend largely on how he and the rest of the offensive line handle the pressure generated by their four-man front.

"I went against the older crew when [Justin] Tuck was still a D-tackle and [Mathias] Kiwanuka was a defensive end," Starks said.

Now Tuck and Pierre-Paul, who leads the team with 5 1/2 sacks, are the defensive ends, and Kiwanuka has been moved to outside linebacker in their base defense. The tackles are Linval Joseph (4 sacks) and Chris Canty (1). Kiwanuka will move to defensive tackle in their substitution package.

They are so good up front that Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora comes off the bench to play in their sub packages.

"The basis of their defense and how they're successful is because they generate pressure with a four-man rush," said Starks, the Steelers' left tackle who played against the Giants in 2004 and 2008. "They have a group of individuals who are all good at it. You put them all on the field at the same time, they're going to generate pressure."

No team in the NFL generates pressure with their defensive line like the Giants. Of their 21 sacks, all but 3 1/2 are generated by their front line.

That will be an immense challenge for the Steelers, who have done a better job of protecting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He has been sacked just five times in the past five games and was not sacked in last Sunday's victory against the Washington Redskins.

"We got to control those guys as best we can," guard Ramon Foster said. "They are built for the pass rush. The speed and athleticism they have, I don't think many teams in this league have that."

But it isn't like teams don't have success against the Giants. They rank 19th against the rush and 26th against the pass in the NFL, and their secondary has already allowed an NFL-high 35 passes of 20 yards or longer in eight games -- or 22 more than the Steelers No. 1 ranked secondary. In last week's 29-24 victory against Dallas, the Giants allowed Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to pass for 437 yards, although 389 came after the Giants built a 23-0 lead.

But what the Giants do best is use their pressure to create turnovers. They lead the NFL with 24 takeaways, including 16 interceptions. Cornerbacks Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara play a lot of underneath zone coverage because quarterbacks have to get rid of the ball quick to combat the pressure.

"You have guys as talented as theirs up front, you can get a lot of pressure," Foster said. "You can tell they pay those guys to rush the quarterback."

Steelers

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com; twitter: @gerrydulac


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