It is true that the New York Giants have been among the more successful teams in the league in terms of keeping their quarterback, Eli Manning, standing upright. He has taken only 13 sacks, and the team as a whole ranks fourth in the league in terms of sacks surrendered per passing play. The Pittsburgh Steelers are no doubt competitive in that statistic, as they have only allowed 14 sacks on the year.
But the Giants have been dealing with, and continue to deal with, a banged up offensive line that may possibly be without two key players once again when they face the Steelers, which is an opportunity that they will have to take advantage of.
Already ruled out for the game is left guard Justin Pugh, a former first-round draft pick, who has already missed the team’s past three games. He is dealing with an MCL injury, and while he may not be far from returning, it will not happen in time for tomorrow’s game.
The Giants’ key depth tackle and guard, Marshall Newhouse, is listed as questionable to play against the Steelers. Like Pugh, Newhouse is dealing with an MCL injury, and that forced him to sit out the game against the Browns a week ago. Starting in his place was second-year seventh-round draft pick Bobby Hart. Newhouse started the season at right tackle, but injuries kept him out for long stretches, and Hart has been the primary starter as a result.
Replacing Pugh has been Adam Gettis, whose name may be familiar. He briefly spent time with the Steelers on their practice squad during the 2014 season before the Giants added him. He was a fifth-round draft pick for Washington in 2012. Sunday was the first start of his career. Newhouse actually started at left guard initially prior to his injury.
If the Giants are once again dealing with a starting offensive line that consists of Gettis and Hart, neither of whom were in the plans to start this season, then the Steelers will have to take advantage of their opportunities—and, frankly, Newhouse is not very good to start with, which is why the Bengals let him walk.
The primary beneficiary of Pugh’s continued absence will have to be rookie defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who has recorded a sack in each of the past two games. because Manning is so adept at getting the ball out quickly, particularly when he senses pressure, penetration through the interior of the line may be the Steelers’ best opportunity.
But a shaky right tackle position—with a starter who ‘won’ the job due to injury—could help Bud Dupree out, who should be seeing his snap count creeping up once again after playing one snap two games ago, and then about 20 or so in their last game.
The reason the Giants have given up so few sacks is not necessarily because their offensive line is full of great pass protectors, but rather because that is how they run their offense, and because Manning, like his brother, does everything to avoid them. Their line has some chinks in the armor. Attack them.