Our first repeat inclusion of the year. Though Ladarius Green is slowly cutting into his playing time Jesse James will play a key role if the Pittsburgh Steelers want to win Sunday against the New York Giants.
Todd Haley almost said as much speaking with the media this week, and we’re putting James again here for similar reasons we did the previous time against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Giants run a 4-3 and have some of the best defensive ends in football. James will most often see Jason Pierre-Paul, who is having an incredible stretch of production. He has 5.5 sacks, 2 FFs, and a pass deflection in his last two games as the Giants’ defensive line as a whole has found their stride.
It will be a depressing day for Ben Roethlisberger if James ever has to block JPP in pass protection. But in the run game, they are near certain to square off several times. Green is still barely being used as a blocker and I don’t expect that usage to change much for Sunday. James will no longer have the benefit of size or length; Pierre-Paul is a big, long player with a rare amount of athleticism for his size. The dude blew off his hand and only needed one season to recover. Absurd.
Running the football will be difficult for the Steelers all day. The Giants are similarly built, even if their fronts are different, to the Baltimore Ravens. They have athleticism on the edges and some crazy size and strength on the interior. Damon Harrison or Jonathan Hankins could squat an asteroid.
But I’m guessing the Steelers will still have some commitment to the run game or at least, situational football where they’ll try it. After all, they have the best back in football and that always makes you think you can be successful, even if it’ll border on the foolish.
Their best bet is to be able to bounce things to the perimeter and James will have a key role in allowing Bell to have the edge. It’l be a tough matchup, one where you’l really feel the absence of Heath Miller. But if the Steelers want to win a Super Bowl, some unlikely players will have to step up in big ways.
Treat it like a Super Bowl, James. The Steelers need it.