Want to know the formula for starting the season off 1-0?
Slow down Saquon Barkley and you win.
Let him run wild and it’s going to be a long night.
It’s obvious to everyone, including Mike Tomlin. The key to stopping the Giants’ offense is stopping #26. A point Tomlin made crystal clear when evaluating the G-Men during his first regular season press conference.
“I think their offense starts first and foremost with Saquon,” Tomlin told reporters. “He’s going to be a big time challenge for us. I spent a great deal of time this summer studying and appreciating his tape. Had a great deal of respect for him when he came out of Penn State being a regional guy. But hadn’t seen a lot of him since he’s been in the league and an NFC guy that’s capable of really impacting the game in all circumstance. In many ways. He’s got the quicks and the vision to be a quality interior runner and the power also to be a quality interior runner. He’s got burst and acceleration and top end speed that allows them to excel on the perimeter game and in open grass.”
Barkley is the heart and soul of the Giants’ offense. One of the faces of the franchise, drafted 2nd overall two years ago, he averaged 4.6 yards per carry in 2019 despite playing in a lackluster offense that saw defenses key in on taking him away. Through two seasons, he’s rushed for over 2300 yards with 17 touchdowns and has made an impact in the passing game too with 143 catches, including 91 as a rookie.
Yardage stats can be deceiving because they show game flow and circumstance but consider this. When Barkley rushes for 110+ yards, the Giants are 5-2. When he’s rushed for 75 or fewer yards, New York is 2-13. Keeping those yards down is largely about making sound, open field tackles. Not letting a runner of his skillset do damage in the open field.
“Five to ten yard runs can become 50 to 60 yard runs when you’re facing a guy with the talents of Saquon,” Tomlin said. “We’re going to spend a lot of time preparing to minimizing his impact.”
The Steelers were a reliable tackling unit last season and tackled almost every padded practice in training camp. That should give them an advantage heading into Week 1. Though this is a team whose run defense showed moments of weakness last season and will be without NT Javon Hargrave, signing with Philadelphia this offseason. Barkley is a great test to gauge their run defense. And it won’t get much easier throughout the season facing an AFC North filled with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ potent run game, Nick Chubb, and Joe Mixon.
To win the North, you better stop the run.
To win Week One, you better do the same.