The Pittsburgh Steelers have a big game today against the New York Giants, and the full scale of its importance should be anticipated by the time that they kick off in the evening. By then, the results of the Ravens’ game against the Dolphins should be in. Should the Ravens lose, the Steelers would have the opportunity to take control of the AFC North with a win. A Ravens win, however, would mean that they would need a victory simply to keep pace.
The matchup between the Steelers and Giants is an interesting one. On paper, the Giants have a bit of a better defense, particularly in the ground game, but they have given up more explosive plays through the air. They have as many turnovers as Pittsburgh does, though I believe a higher percentage of them are from interceptions—including five from safety Landon Collins.
The Steelers, however, have the better offense, and the difference is most pronounced by far, once again, in the ground game, with Le’Veon Bell a far superior back to any the Giants have, and their offensive line is also more talented and healthier.
But the run defense is the Giants’ strength, and has been emerging lately, so the Steelers cannot expect to count on the success they have had running the ball over the course of their previous two games. But they can get Bell into open space in coverage against their linebackers, which may be the best way to make a difference in this game.
The wildcard in all this is simply this: what in the world will Sammie Coates be capable of doing? A lot of focus was paid to the three targets that he received against the Colts. Two were deep passes that were underthrown. But it should be kept in mind that he played a total of five meaningful snaps.
If he is capable, I want to see him play a couple dozen snaps or more. I want to see him given opportunities. Give him an end-around if that is what it takes. It’s something he’s capable of doing, and they already have him returning kicks and covering kicks and punts. Give Collins something to think about.
I’ve already written previously about the importance of endurance on the defensive side of the ball in this game. While the Giants have not consistently found success putting together long drives, the Steelers allow them fairly often (see the Colts game). Combined with New York’s no-huddle approach, and the inability to sub in, expect endurance to be tested.
Oh, and please don’t allow Odell Beckham Jr. to get behind you. Or in front of you, either, because he turns short passes into long once. In fact, a large number of the Giants’ explosive plays this year have come off of short passes rather than deep ones. So what does that mean? Tackling efficiency. Get your man on the ground. Especially against this group of slippery wide receivers. Rally to the ball.