The Pittsburgh Steelers went 8-8 (4-2 in the AFC North) in 2013 and missed the playoffs after the San Diego Chargers grabbed every lucky horseshoe in the country. The New York Giants went 7-9 (3-3 in the NFC East), which was somewhat impressive since they began the season 0-6, but they too missed the playoffs.
On Saturday, Aug. 9, the Steelers and Giants will square off at 7:30 p.m. ET in a preseason game. The Giants have already played a game, having beat the Buffalo Bills 17-13 in the Hall of Fame Game, but this will be the Steelers’ first game of the season. Will the Giants benefit from already having a game under their belt? Maybe, but it doesn’t really matter because the preseason games don’t really mean anything. It’s an excuse for fans to get excited that football is finally back, but if your favorite team loses each of its preseason games, move on — quickly. The preseason allows coaches to get their teams acclimated to football once again and provides an opportunity for coaching staffs to make final roster decisions.
In the Hall of Fame Game, Giants QB Eli Manning was 6-of-7 for 43 yards in three series. Manning’s backup, Ryan Nassib, threw for 139 yards while completing 7-of-12 attempts. He also threw the go-ahead 73-yard TD pass to Corety Washington early in the fourth quarter.
The big story surrounding the Giants this week is the sudden retirement of running back David Wilson after a much too brief career in the NFL. Wilson was advised by his doctors to not play football anymore after suffering too many neck injuries. Whether you are a Giants fan or not, you have to feel for Wilson. He is handling it extremely professionally, and it shouldn’t be a surprise when he is successful in whatever he decides to do next. A positive for the Giants was the rookie running back Andre Williams looked good against the Bills, running for 48 yards and a touchdown. Williams is now in a battle with Rashad Jennings, who had 23 yards on seven carries against the Bills, for the starting job. Jennings was an offseason free-agent acquisition by the Giants.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is still one of the better QBs in the NFL. How long that will be the case remains to be seen, but the Steelers can still win a Super Bowl with him. He’ll be missing two of his favorite receivers this season — Emmanuel Sanders is now with the Denver Broncos, and Jerricho Cotchery is now with the Carolina Panthers. It will be interesting to see how the offense comes together. In the draft the Steelers focused on their defense, selecting Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier at No. 15 overall and DT Stephon Tuitt out of Notre Dame in the second round. Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has said he thinks Shazier will start and Tuitt will see a lot of snaps. The Steelers ranked ninth against the pass in 2013 and 21st against the run. On offense they ranked 12th in passing yards and 28th in rushing yards. The Steelers need to be better across the board, but in particular stopping the run and running the football effectively. As the season gets going we’ll see if they have improved so they can finish better than 8-8.
The good news for both the Giants and Steelers is they both play in divisions, NFC East and AFC North, respectively, that do not have a prohibitive favorite. Either team could win their division in 2014 and it starts with evaluating depth during the preseason.