The New York Giants are red hot, and that’s bad news for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers are 6-5 and in need of a win to keep pace in the AFC playoff picture after winning its last two against the Cleveland Browns and the Indianapolis Colts. This Sunday afternoon they welcome the Giants, winners of their last six games and leaders of the NFC East.
Despite winning six in a row, the Giants have struggled at times to manufacture offense as a result of their weak run game. The team only averages 79.5 yard per game, putting pressure on the pass attack to move the ball. Fortunately for the Giants, QB Eli Manning has been tremendous during the win streak, throwing 15 touchdowns to just four interceptions with a 93.5 QB Rating. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has been dominant as well during the streak, averaging 93 yards and six catches per game.
If you could point to one consistency during the Giants great run, it’s been the pass rush. The team as a whole ranks sixth in the league in quarterback pressures, and it’s been a major part of part of the 77.0 QB Rating against they’ve allowed. The driving force of the pass rush has been the new pairing of Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. Vernon, who came over from Miami in the offseason, and JPP have combined for 44 pressures, three sacks, 10 tackles for a loss and four forced fumbles. The two will look to disrupt Ben Roethlisberger’s rhythm as often as possible on Sunday.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have the ninth best offense, according to Football Outsiders even though they’ve been without one of their three offensive weapons for five of their 11 games this season. Due to injuries and suspensions, Le’Veon Bell, Ben Roethlisberger, and Antonio Brown have found it difficult to all be on the field at the same time; however, when they are on the field, the Steelers are a handful.
Bell especially has been one of the best running backs in the NFL since his return from suspension. The multi-dimensional All-Pro has accumulated 699 yards rushing and 437 yards receiving in only eight games, averaging 26 touches per game. The Giants linebackers have a difficult test in store for them Sunday trying to keep Bell in check.
Giants defensive tackle Damon Harrison, one of the defensive unit’s pleasant surprises this season, will be key in slowing down Bell. Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo describes Harrison as being a “huge” factor in stopping Bell when he spoke to reporters this week.
“I watch him all the time, and he’s been the glue [to the entire defense],” Spagnuolo told the New York Post. “He has been the guy that can get the guys to refocus. You need somebody in the group that will do that, and he’s been that guy.”
The Harrison-Bell matchup will be exciting, but the another pair to watch will be wide receiver Antonio Brown of the Steelers against cornerback Janoris Jenkins of the Giants. Brown is Pro Football Focus’s 4th ranked wide receiver having hauled in 82 passes for 998 yards and 10 touchdowns. Brown is lethal underneath when he has a chance to catch and run, but can burn just about any corner in the NFL over the top. On the other side, Jenkins is 12th in PFF’s rankings, impressively allowing only four receptions in his last two games on balls thrown to him.
The Giants are on an impressive streak, but Pittsburgh is the more urgent team right now with their 6-5 record. Look for a big game from the Steelers’ big three as they beat the Giants Sunday afternoon.