Steelers vs. Giants: Matchups to watch
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When the Giants have the ball: The offense revolves around QB Eli Manning and his ability to get the ball to his sure-handed receivers, primarily Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Manning is second in the NFC with 2,301 yards passing and third in the conference in fourth-quarter passing (103.5 rating). He also has been sacked only six times, fewest among NFL QBs. Cruz is second in the NFC in receptions (52), third in receiving yards with 650 and tied for the NFL lead in TDs (7). TE Martellus Bennett was signed in free agency and has become a favorite target, ranking second on the team with 29 catches. The Steelers have moved up to No. 1 in the league in pass defense after allowing Andy Dalton and Robert Griffin III to pass for a combined 282 yards. They have allowed a league-low 13 passes of 20 yards or more. That will be tested against Manning. The Giants ranked last in rush offense last season but have done a better job this season. They rank 12th in the NFL with 917 yards (4.4 ypc) led by Ahmad Bradshaw.
When the Steelers have the ball: The biggest issue will be handling the pressure from the Giants' defensive line and avoiding the turnovers their secondary likes to create. Ben Roethlisberger has thrown only three INTs in 268 attempts, but all three have been on the road. He's also been sacked only five times in the past five games, but all five have been on the road. The Giants lead the NFL with 16 INTs and 24 takeaways and do more than just force a turnover -- they make big plays as a result. They average 21.9 yards per interception return. DE Jason Pierre-Paul returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown against the Cowboys. But while the Giants' pressure forces turnovers, it has also left the secondary vulnerable. They have allowed more pass plays of 20 yards or longer (35) than any team in the league. That could create opportunities for WR Mike Wallace. Cowboys TE Jason Witten had a club-record 18 catches against the Giants last week, so it could be another big game for TE Heath Miller.
Keep an eye on
S Stevie Brown ... He has stepped in as the starter after an injury to Kenny Phillips and leads the team with seven takeaways -- five interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Brown, in his third season out of Michigan but first with New York after stints in Oakland and Indianapolis, had two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a team-high six solo tackles last week against the Cowboys while earning NFC defensive player of the week honors. What's more, Brown has averaged 33.6 yards on his three interception returns.
The Giants lead the all-time series, 46-29-3, and have won four of the past six meetings, although this marks just their fifth game since 1994. The Steelers won the last meeting at Giants Stadium, 33-30, in 2004, but this marks their first trip to MetLife Stadium, which opened in 2010. ... The Giants have won their past four games and have averaged 33.3 points in their six victories this season. The Steelers have won their past two games and allowed opponents an average of 13.2 points in their four victories. ... The Steelers are 16-6 against NFC teams under Mike Tomlin, including 2-0 this season. Roethlisberger is 23-7 vs. the NFC.
To win, the Giants must ...
1. Have Manning be Eli(te). He needs to solve a Steelers pass defense that has done a good job of containing young QBs the past two games.
2. Keep Ben penned. Letting a play break down will only create more stress on their feast-or-famine secondary.
3. Be on Cruz control. He is the Giants' big-play receiver who already has catches of 77 and 80 yards this season.
To win, the Steelers must ...
1. Go to the Wall(ace). The Giants have allowed more passes of 20 yards or longer than any team in the league.
2. Be coming at Eli. The defense will need to generate inside pressure to keep Manning from stepping up in the pocket.
3. Max protect. Starks has performed very well in pass protection and will need to do more of that against Pierre-Paul.
First Published November 4, 2012 12:00 am