PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — If you had any question why the Steelers and Giants are such a big TV attraction, all you needed to hear is one line.
Since the Super Bowl era began, the matchup between Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning is only the seventh time two-time Super Bowl champion quarterbacks have faced each other in the same game.
If the final injury reports of the week are any indication, both may need to be Super Bowl-caliber to pull out a win.
Both the Steelers and Giants are banged up at running back. Just as Jonathan Dwyer became the Steelers’ breakout player with two straight 100-yard performances, an injury popped up.
After missing the week of practice with an injured Quadricep, Dwyer is listed as doubtful by the Steelers coaching staff. Add that to another week out of the lineup for Rashard Mendenhall, who is still trying to come back from that Achilles injury, and the Steelers are looking at dressing a backfield led by Isaac Redman and Baron Batch. Both Redman and Batch practiced through injuries this week, but they also are fully expected to play tomorrow.
The running back news is just as bad on the Giants’ side.
Starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw is listed as questionable with a foot injury, but the week of practice wasn’t a positive indicator. Bradshaw suffered a setback from Thursday’s practice and was back on the sideline yesterday. If he does make it into the lineup, Bradshaw will clearly be much less than 100 percent. If he can’t go, the bulk of the carries will be handled by third-year running back Andre Brown.
If the Steelers are going to have success moving the ball tomorrow it may come right up the middle of the Giants defense thanks to a couple of key injuries.
The first is to middle linebacker Chase Blackburn who has been ruled out with a hamstring problem. He hasn’t been the most dominant middle linebacker, but Blackburn’s absence moves second-year linebacker Mark Herzlich into the middle. That sometimes opens things up in the underneath passing game more than the run game. The Steelers certainly have the weapons between Chris Rainey, Heath Miller, and Baron Batch to try exploiting the middle of the field.
Add to that injury the possible loss of strong safety Kenny Phillips. He’s listed as questionable with a knee injury, but wasn’t able to practice at full speed all week. That could provide some mismatches for the Steelers receivers if Phillips is not at full strength. The task is even more daunting for the New York secondary if he has to be replaced by Stevie Brown.
The one Steelers injury to watch this week is the loss of Troy Polamalu. It’s nothing new as Polamalu has missed a few games and will probably miss at least a couple more, but this is also the Steelers first significant test in the secondary in a few weeks.
The duo of Will Allen and Ryan Mundy haven’t faced anything like the passing attack led by Eli Manning the last two weeks. Now the pressure will be on them against one of the elite quarterbacks in the league.
This will be the best indicator yet of the way the Steelers will be able to handle Polamalu’s potential long-term absence.
On the plus side, it appears Ryan Clark has passed all of his concussion tests and will be able to play tomrorow. So at least the Steelers won’t be facing Manning and company with two backup safeties.
And the pass rush is intact as well. After missing some time early in the week, LaMarr Woodley went through the full practice Friday and seems ready to go for the showdown in the Meadowlands.