By Christina Rivers
While efforts to restore areas affected by Hurricane Sandy include New Jersey where the New York Giants play at MetLife Stadium, the Pittsburgh Steelers await news and expect to play a tough game. The Giants are 6-2 on the season and defending their Super Bowl Championship status from last season. The Steelers advanced to 4-3 with a win over the Washington Redskins, but they aren’t going to stop their own momentum going into the game.
“They are 6-2. They’ve won their last four game,” Coach Mike Tomlin said in his Tuesday news conference. “They do things that winning teams do.”
The Steelers are coming off of back-to-back wins against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Washington Redskins. Regardless of the win-loss column, the Steelers are striving to keep the hunt alive and their next prey is the Giants. The Steelers are ready to meet the challenge.
The Giants have been a well-balanced team on offense and defense this season. The offensive line has protected quarterback Eli Manning well, only allowing six sacks. On the defensive side of the line, the Giants are stalking quarterbacks. “I think they’ve taken them down 21 times,” Tomlin said. Tomlin would be correct. The Giants have a total of 531 tackles, including 21 sacks. Their third-down conversion rate is 40/102, but they’ve only faced fourth down three times and converted all three of them. The offense is averaging 513 plays per game for 917 total rushing yards and 2,257 passing yards. Their turnover ratio is +13.
The Giants had a couple of days to spend with their families and deal with the destruction caused by nature. Many players were checking on each other and their families in the wake of Sandy. “Obviously, there are still a lot of issues and no power and the home life is different and has its challenges,” Manning said. “But I think once you get into the facility…start working out and get around the teammates, it will be a good little break to kind of get away from that.” Usually, Manning spends hours in the quarterbacks meeting room Tuesdays at the Timex Performance Center studying his next opponent. He had to make a change of plans. “I kind of had a feeling this storm was going to be bad,” he added. “I came in Monday morning and got my computer.”
Manning grew up in New Orleans and understands the nature of hurricanes. Now living in Hoboken, New Jersey, Manning was just one of many players who lost power. He moved his family to a hotel that had power and watched game tape on his laptop. “I had time…to watch a bunch (of film) and I feel caught up,” he said. “I feel right where I need to be.”
While the Giants get a late start to preparing on the field for the Steelers, the players and coaching staff feel confident that they will be at their normal level of competitiveness come Sunday. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said that the storm, “isn’t going to affect us at all”. While the Giants may feel confident, the tough part will be knowing that the Steelers are fully prepared.
Coach Tomlin said, “We are looking forward to measuring ourselves against a group like this. We need this challenge. Obviously, we won the last time we were on the road. That has been an issue for us in the past. We anticipate this environment being a hostile one, as it should be.”
New Jersey is still in a state of emergency, and while Coach Coughlin understand that his organization, staff and players may have their minds on those issues, he has asked for extra focus on football. “Nothing is pushed back in the NFL,” he said. “Everything is on schedule.” Whether or not the National Football League offices in New York will keep to that policy is up in the air right now. “We’ve made some adjustments to try to accommodate and anticipate some issues that we might have,” Coughlin added. “We’ve been hard at it and the coaches have been hard at it…everybody took their laptops with them and then we reconvened.” He anticipates the team will resume their normal schedule.
Offensively, the two teams are very close. In total yards-per game, the Steelers’ offense is listed at 369.9. The Giants are one tenth from that same position. While the Giants have been rushing more this season, the Steelers have a slight lead in rushing yardage. Where the Steelers take the lead is in time of possession and third-down conversions. This could give the Steelers an edge on offense if they are able to utilize the quick ‘dink and dunk’ offense, as it has been nicknamed recently.
Defensively, the Steelers are much more stingy. Pittsburgh is only allowing 274.1 yards per game versus the Giants’ 386.5. The Steelers are also more dominant against the run and the pass, but the Giants have prevented more third-down conversions by opposing offenses.
Turnovers will be a major factor in this game. As it heats up between the current NFC East leaders and the AFC North Steelers who are in position to tie Baltimore’s 5 win record in 2012, penalties will be a concern as well. Overall, the game is expected to be a close match between two experienced teams with Super Bowl wins under their belts.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spent some time answering questions about the game on Tuesday. When asked about the Giants defense, Roethlisberger answered, “They’re very good…their (defensive line) rush is exceptional. It will be a big test for us this week especially on the road.” Roethlisberger is putting his faith in the Steelers offensive line to keep him upright. “The line has been doing a great job. Our offense is kind of designed for that…the shorter passes and just making plays.”
Last week the Giants gave up 400 passing yards to the Cowboys, but completely shut down their run offense. Roethlisberger thought that the number was “a little bit deceiving”, pointing out that Dallas was out of other options and needed to score.
Roethlisberger sent a heart-felt message to those affected by the storm. “[My] heart goes out for all the families, the people, everybody up there that is going through a really tough time right now. It’s just a crazy thing that’s going on…our thoughts and prayers are with everybody.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25 PM EST
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Steelers news, see CBS Sports Pittsburgh
Christina Rivers is freelance journalist and photographer with a life-long love of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Credentialed with the organization, Christina provides a unique perspective gained through her knowledge and understanding of Steelers history, the Rooney family and relationships with past and present players. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.