ReFo: Steelers @ Giants, Week 9
After a tumultuous week in the New York/New Jersey area because of Hurricane Sandy, the decision was made to go forward with the game between the Steelers and the Giants. The Steelers showed no ill-effects from their gameday travel to East Rutherford, N.J., as they finished the game strong with a 14-point fourth quarter in a 24-20 comeback victory.
It was another week of classic Steelers football as they mixed opportunistic defense and special teams with a running attack which seemingly ‘plugs and plays’ a different bruising running back every week. Throw in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s quietly strong season and the Steelers are poised to make a second-half run in the AFC.
The Giants ended a four-game winning streak with the heartbreaking loss as they fall to 6-3 on the season. They continue to show glimpses of possibly being the best team in the league before taking a step back. Still, they’ve certainly proved that midseason power rankings are nothing more than Monday morning fodder and they’re in good shape for another playoff run come January.
Let’s take a look at the good and bad from this week’s game.
Pittsburgh — Three Performances of Note
Next Man Up
Perhaps our “Next Man Up” features should revolve around Pittsburgh’s running backs as it was Isaac Redman’s (+2.7) time to shine this week. It’s not as if this was Redman’s first opportunity, but the Steelers were fresh off strong performances from now-injured Jonathan Dwyer, who used his physical style to run for more than 100 yards each of the last two weeks. Redman was a strong replacement, setting career highs in carries (26) and rushing yards (147) while maintaining Dwyer’s physicality with 121 of those yards coming after contact (4.7 per rush). Redman sealed the game, and perhaps summed up the day, with 2:23 to go in the fourth as he busted through a Linval Joseph tackle and burst into the secondary for a 28-yard gain. Redman finished with six missed tackles forced and an Elusive Rating of 99.7.
Off the Edge
The best pass rusher on the field was outside linebacker Lamarr Woodley, who had his way with Giants right tackle David Diehl. Woodley did his best work in the fourth quarter as he beat Diehl off the edge for two hurries before making one of the biggest plays of the game with 3:45 to go. With the Giants down four, and a national TV audience all but expecting more magic from Eli Manning, Woodley beat Diehl off the edge once again, this time knocking the ball from Manning’s hands to force a fumble. Though the Giants fell on the loose ball, it turned out to be their last offensive play of the day as Woodley put a damper on any late-game heroics.
While the Steelers defense had a strong game, inside linebacker Larry Foote (-5.2) was clearly the weakest link. In addition to contributing only one stop in the running game, he was handled easily by both fullback Henry Hynoski and tight end Martellus Bennett, including one pull block from Bennett that sent him to the ground. Foote was a liability in the passing game as well, giving up completions on all four balls thrown his way, three of which resulted in first downs. Foote was also the culprit on the Giants’ biggest play from scrimmage, which came early in the third quarter when he was unable to run with Bennett down the seam for a 33-yard gain.
New York — Three Performances of Note
Last week, Manning’s “raw” numbers did not tell the story because he played much better than they indicated. But this week, the 10 for 24, 125-yard performance accurately summarized Eli’s day. In addition to some uncharacteristic miscommunications with his wide receivers, Manning’s -4.1 grade was the result of inaccurate passes along with a sprinkling of poor decisions. His one interception fit both categories as he threw the post-corner route extremely late; it was well underthrown into the waiting arms of cornerback Ike Taylor. Manning nearly gift-wrapped another interception Taylor’s way as he hit him in the numbers with pass in the end zone at the 7:15 mark of the second quarter. That play was negated by Ryan Clark’s personal foul penalty on Victor Cruz, but was still an extremely poor decision on Manning’s part.
The Giants’ passing game usually excels at the intermediate and deep ranges, but Manning just couldn’t get anything going as he completed only 2 of 11 on such throws. The Pittsburgh cornerbacks deserve a lot of credit as they played tight coverage on the Giants’ wide receivers throughout the game.
For the second week in a row, cornerback Jayron Hosley (-3.3) had a fourth quarter to forget. Last week he resorting to holding penalties while trying to keep up with Cowboys receiver Miles Austin and this week he simply struggled in coverage while adding an offsides penalty for good measure. Hosley looked to be freelancing as he vacated his zone on 2nd-and-6 with 8:11 to go in the game, and Roethlisberger was able to find a wide-open Heath Miller on a drag route. Later in the quarter, the Giants’ comeback attempts were stalled as Pittsburgh was able to convert a 3rd-and-9 at the 2:40 mark. Hosley had Emmanuel Sanders in man coverage from the slot, but Sanders made a nifty move to sell the post route before cutting back toward the sideline for the out route. Hosley was left tracking toward the post and the result was an easy first-down completion for Roethlisberger.
After starting the season with seven straight negative grades, CB Corey Webster (+3.2) has put together back-to-back strong weeks. Though the stats show him in coverage on the 51-yard touchdown to Mike Wallace, that play had more to do with Wallace outrunning the entire Giants defense on a quick slant. Better tackling and pursuit angles from Webster’s teammates would have kept it to a mere 7-yard gain. That was the only blip on the day for Webster, who deflected a pass while intercepting another. The interception was a thing of beauty as he was in a trail position on Wallace who ran a hitch route to the middle of the field. Webster ran the route at nearly the same time and Roethlisberger hit him in the chest with the pass as he felt the Giants’ pass rush bearing down on him.
– Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis surrendered only one 10-yard reception on his five targets, with two passes defensed. He did, however, commit two penalties.
– Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich played a career-high 69 snaps.
– When under no pressure, Manning was only 8 for 18 for 84 yards and a -1.8 PFF Grade.
No player made more of an impact as a pass rusher than Lamarr Woodley, who picked up four pressures on his 15 rushes, including the strip sack that thwarted any comeback attempt.
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