5 Things: Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. New York Giants
This weekend the Pittsburgh Steelers have a chance to shut a lot of people up. Most writers and pundits aren’t sure what to make of the Steelers. The NFL has never seen so much parity at this point in a season, so simply looking at record isn’t going to help you understand how good or bad a team is. Even the New York Giants who the Steelers play this week aren’t a consensus top team, even though the eyeball test tells me they are tremendous, especially on offense.
The soft, gooey center of the Steelers schedule is over. The final 9 games are going to be brutal and include 5 division tilts. But before that they have to beat the Giants in order to solidify their place among a wide open AFC. But looking at the matchups, and you all know that I am all about finding and exploiting those a team can win, and hiding the ones that they cannot, there are some that cannot be denied.
As I went through both teams, there are really 5 that stand out to me. I will give a full preview of the game later in the week in my usual style, but for a game this important, I think there are some things that the Steelers coaches need to look at closely and include in their gameplan if they want to be successful this weekend. I think there are some matchups the Steelers have a distinct advantage in and I hope they will work hard to use those to their advantage, but there are some as well that clearly lean toward the Giants and the Steelers must address these is they want to win.
So with that, let’s take a look at the 5 key matchups in this week’s game and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @nfldraftboard for all things Steelers and NFL Draft related.
Kevin Gilbride against Dick Lebeau
Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is one of the more underrated offensive coaches in football in my opinion. He always seems to come up with a gameplan that works to his team strengths and puts his players in a position to make plays. And in those cases where changes have to be made, he does a very good job in adjusting on the fly, to give his team an edge.
On the other side you have Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau who might be the greatest defensive mind in the history of the league. The chess match these two are going to play on Sunday is going to be fascinating for anyone who's into the x's and o's of the game. It might not always show up as a bold statement on each play, but LeBeau has subtle ways to throw off an opposing offense and they don't even realize it's happening until it's too late. Whichever of these coaching minds can come up with the best plan will give their team a distinct edge in the game. I give the edge to LeBeau but he is working with less talent than Gilbride is on offense, so we will just have to wait and see.
The Steelers offensive line against the Giants defensive line.
Last week the Steelers saw excellent play from their young tackles Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams. But we have to consider that the pass rush of the Washington Redskins is not the pass rush of the Giants. 2 weeks ago the Steelers did a good job helping their young tackles against a better pass rush by keeping tight ends and running backs in to help and chip on the ends. This weekend it will probably have to be much of the same, however one thing that is going to be different this week is the run game.
2 weeks ago the Steelers were just coming into their own in running the football, but now it seems they’ve hit their stride. Running right at those talented Giants defensive ends could go a long way toward keeping them from pinning their ears back and attacking. Not to mention the more the Steelers force the Giants ends to defend the run, it wears them down and slows that rush as well.
The Steelers against Superstorm Sandy
The Steelers have found themselves in a very awkward position this weekend and it could have significant effects on the outcome of the game. Due to superstorm Sandy, so much of the East coast is without power, or dealing with damages from the storm. Because of that, the Steelers are not going to be able to fly into the game early, stay at a hotel and continue their normal routine. Instead, they have to bus in the 370ish miles the morning of the game, play and then return that evening.
The exact effects of this travel and break from routine is unknown, but I can't imagine a scenario where riding in a bus for 7 hours prior to kickoff won't have some negative impact, even if it's just the team coming out flat. A slow start is exactly what the Steelers do no need against a team as talented as the Giants. It's an unfortunate circumstance and you just hope it doesn't effect the final outcome of the game.
The Steelers Pass Offense Against the Giants Pass Defense
This is an advantage that is huge to the Steelers. The Giants secondary is beat up and the Steelers have a very formidable group of pass catchers from wide receivers Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders, as well as tight ends Heath Miller and Leonard Pope are a real challenge to scheme for. Working the underneath of the Giants defense is going to be key for the Steelers success as their receivers are so good after the catch. This will also pull the defense back off the line of scrimmage to aid the run game.
The Giants are going to have to either double Wallace and Brown or give safety help, so there could be some potential pairings of Miller on linebackers and even running backs on linebackers where the Steelers will have the edge.
Eli Manning against the Steelers 4th quarter defense
The last 2 games, the Steelers 4th quarter defense has really played well. They have been able to take leads into the final period and close the door on opponents. This week they get quarterback Eli Manning who might be the best 4th quarter quarterback in the league. If the Steelers enter the 4th quarter with the lead, neither side of the football can assume things are under control because against Manning it’s never the case. The biggest thing the Steelers players and staff have to do on defense is not let up. A prevent defense with the lead against Manning is a recipe for game suicide. They must continue to pressure Manning and force him into bad throws. They cannot let him just sit back and pick apart a soft zone.