Preparing for this year’s regular season will be a tough challenge, like virtually everything else in 2020. Not only is a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers trying to get their own eventual 53 man roster ready, they’re trying to get a read on Week 1 opponent New York Giants. The Giants have a new coaching staff, led by first-time head coach Joe Judge. Despite that newness, DC Keith Butler believes the Steelers will have a good feel for what the G-Men will do in their Monday night opener.
Talking with reporters earlier in the week, Butler gave a great answer on what they’re expecting.
“You kind of get an idea of what they want to do,” Butler said via the team website. “Cause they got similar people as they did in Dallas. Maybe not the quarterback that Jason had in Dallas but he’s got a running back that’s a hoss. They pretty much do what a, of people do in the league nowadays. They run the football and they go playaction on first down. In their play action, they like to run deeper routes, get over the top of the linebackers if you’re trying to play zone and get between the linebackers and the secondary, if you’re trying to play zone and stuff like that.”
That running back of course is Saquon Barkley, arguably the best in football. Through two seasons, he’s rushed for over 2300 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Of running backs with at least 300 carries in 2018-2019 combined, Barkley ranks seventh in average. And he hasn’t exactly been part of football’s greatest offense either. So it’s no secret the team will literally run through him. If the Steelers want to begin the season with a victory, they’ll have to play excellent run defense.
Butler went on to say he expects a similar run scheme as to what the Cowboys had with Jason Garrett on staff.
“I’m sure he’s going to do what he knows. He brought the offensive line coach with him. So, they’re pretty much going to have the same running game that they probably had in Dallas., I wouldn’t change it much because, you know, they were pretty successful running the ball at Dallas also. So they’ll do both. They’ll have an emphasis on run because of the guy they got running the football and probably off of play action. Also try to do what most offenses do. They’ll try to stay out of the third and long situations and getting third and medium, and third short.”
Although the NFL has moved to a passing league, the Steelers will face among the game’s most run-heavy offenses. Whether that’s the Giants to open the season or their AFC North matchups facing the Browns, Bengals, and Ravens, three teams built via the run game.
Bringing things back to the Giants, they’re also led by second-year QB Daniel Jones. Jones survived his rookie year with decent numbers. 24 TDs to 12 INTs and a 61.9% completion percentage. His top targets will be WRs Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepherd along with TE Evan Engram. New York’s offensive line is a question mark after LT Nate Solder opted out. It’s possible they start a pair of rookies in 1st rounder Andrew Thomas and 3rd rounder Matt Peart. That would be a tasty matchup for TJ Watt and Bud Dupree.