Giants (0-0) Steelers (0-0)
The last time these two teams played was Dec
4, 2016 at MetLife Stadium. Pittsburgh came away with a 24-14 win, but the Giants
went on to finish the season with an 11-5 record under first year head coach Ben
McAdoo. The Giants finished second in the division to the Dallas Cowboys, and
then lost to the Green Bay Packers in their NFC wild-card game.
also finished the season at 11-5, which put them first in their AFC North division.
They went on to win their wildcard and divisional playoff games before losing
in the conference championship game to the New England Patriots, who later went
on to win Super Bowl LI in an overtime game with the Atlanta Falcons.
Tomlin is in his 14th season as the Steelers' head coach, and he has never had
a losing season. Last year Tomlin lost Ben Roethlisberger early on and the impact
was immediately felt. In game two Roethlisberger
was grasping his arm after making throws, and he didn't return for the second
half. It turned out that Roethlisberger had ripped three of five flexor tendons
off the bone and he underwent season ending
elbow surgery. Roethlisberger was coming off
a 2018 season where he led the NFL with 5,129 passing yards, and had thrown a
career high 34 touchdowns.
The team finished
8-8, as the offense went from 2nd in passing to 31st without his help. They're
hoping Roethlisberger can get them back into the playoffs, after missing out on
the postseason in each of the past two years. The Steelers are only one of three
teams to not have a player opt out because of COVID-19 concerns. Tomlin has made
very few coaching changes, so the Steelers have consistency on their side in these
challenging times compared to many other teams.
Steelers know what they have in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, or do they? So
far there's been nothing but good news reported about his surgically repaired
elbow. The Giants will find out for sure this
coming Monday as Roethlisberger becomes more familiar with second-year receiver
Diontae Johnson, who last year led the team in targets (92), receptions (59),
and touchdowns (5).
James Washington led the team in receiving yards, catching
44 passes for 735 yards, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, hampered by injuries coming
off a great 2018 season where he caught 111 passes for 1426 yards, is back at
Roethlisberger can also target talented running back Jaylen
Samuels. He was second in receptions last year and he also has starting running
back James Conner. The running game is not the strength of this offense, but it
really suffered last year with Conner suffering various, injuries forcing him
to miss games.
In 2019 the Steelers ranked first
in the NFL with 54 sacks. That's coming off a year where they had 52, tying them
for the top spot in 2018, and 56 in 2017, which also was the league high. Over
those years, the defense was ranked an overall 5th, 6th, and 5th. Last season
edge rushers T.J. Watt and Bud Depree, and tackle Cameron Heyward accounted for
35 sacks, with Watt leading the group with 14.5 sacks and 8 forced fumbles.
not all the Giants will have to contend with. The Steelers have a strong secondary.
Overall, their 3rd ranked passing defense came up with 20 interceptions, which
put them in 2nd place in the NFL. On the ground, opposing runners averaged a low
3.79 yards allowed per rush, and they gave up only 7 rushing touchdowns, which
tied them for the fewest allowed in the NFL.
Since the Giants have last played
the Steelers in 2016, they have gone through a few head coaching changes. Ben
McAdoo was gone after a 3-13 2017 season, as well as Pat Shurmur after leading
the Giants to 5-11 and 4-12 records in his two year stint. Joe Judge, who was
on the New England Patriots' coaching staff for eight seasons, is now the head
coach for the Giants. Last year Judge was both the Patriots' special teams coordinator
and their wide receivers coach.
Judge has two former head coaches working
under him, Jason Garrett as his offensive coordinator, and Freddie Kitchens, who
lasted just one year as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Kitchens is now
the Giants running back coach. Patrick Graham is the new defensive coordinator.
Graham was with the Patriots for seven years before becoming the Giants defensive
line coach for 2016-17. After a year with the Packers, and another as the defensive
coordinator for the Dolphins, he is now back with the Giants as the defensive
coordinator and assistant head coach.
Another big change is that Eli
Manning has retired after 16 seasons with the Giants. That was in part due to
the way things played out with Shurmur working in rookie first round pick Daniel
Jones early on last season. You can say Jones had a good year with his 12 starts,
completing 284 passes for 3,010 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Jones
also had 44 rushes for 274 yards and 2 touchdowns. That said, you do have to subtract
his ball security issues, causing him to have 18 fumbles with 11 lost.
offensive line has also undergone changes. Veteran tackle Nate Solder has opted
out of the 2020 season. The Giants first round pick, Andrew Thomas, will be taking
that left tackle spot. Either Nick Gates or Spencer Pulley will be the starting
center. Pulley has 10 starts in that position and Gates none. One of them will
be up against Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, who last year had 9.0
sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and 23 quarterback hits.
The Giants were hoping
to have their full complement of offensive skill players, Jones, running back
Saquon Barkley, tight end Evan Engram, wide receivers Darius Slayton, Sterling
Shepard, and Golden Tate all on the field for the first time together, but Tate
is questionable for this game. They will need to establish a strong running game
with Saquon Barkley to get things going.
UPDATE - Nick Gates was named as the
starter at center.
Last year the defense ranked in
the bottom half of the NFL in most major categories. One of the biggest of course,
is points allowed, which put them in the 30th spot - 28.2 points allowed per game.
Turnovers by their offensive unit didn't help their efforts. The Giants struggled
to get pressure on the quarterback and their secondary paid for that. They do
have talent up front, and placed a franchise tag on Leonard Williams, who finished
third in total pass rush pressures after joining the team eight games in. His
presence also boosted their run defense.
Markus Golden finished the year with
10 sacks and 27 quarterback hits. Oshane Ximines had 4.5 sacks as a rookie, involved
in less than half of the defensive snaps. The Giants also added free agent Kyler
Fackrell, who had 10.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hits for the Packers in 2018.
Fackrell saw less playing time last year, as their defense made changes.
all that, this upcoming game might not be the one where you see much improvement
in quarterback pressure and sacks. In 2018, Roethlisberger had more passing attempts
than any other quarterback, and was sacked only 24 times. It helped that he was
one of the top quarterbacks to get rid of the ball the quickest. That could be
tough, as the Giants secondary continues to be a work in progress only recently
strengthened by the addition of cornerback Lagoon Ryan.
There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic
has impacted the 2020 NFL season in many ways. The Giants are at a bigger disadvantage
here, heading into this season with a new head coach and coaching staff. Mike
Tomlin has made very few changes to his staff and they can also build off last
year's experiences with most of the players.
For the Giants and Joe Judge,
everything is brand new so it's hard to envision them wining this one. They need
to learn everything they can and build from this first game. In less than a month
the Giants will begin a stretch that includes five of their six divisional games.
NFC East Games
Sunday at 1:00pm Eagles (0-0) at Washington (0-0).
- UPDATE - Washington 27 Eagles 17
Sunday at 8:20pm Cowboys (0-0) at Rams (0-0).
- UPDATE - Rams 20 Cowboys 17
7:15pm Steelers at Giants.
The Eagles and Cowboys are the NFC East teams favored
to win in these games.
On The Air. Listen to the Radio Broadcasts.
TeamGiants on Twitter.
Shepard is the longest tenured Giant on the roster.
Garrett called the Cowboys plays from 2007-2013, and will do so now for the Giants.
Giant Ike Hillard is now the receivers coach for the Steelers.
Tomlin is 133-74-1 as head coach with the Steelers, but 23-21-1 in the month of
September.The Steelers led the NFL with
38 takeaways in 2019, including a league-high 18 fumble recoveries.
Sept 20 Giants at Chicago
27 San Francisco at Giants.